Gambia’s minister of tourism, Hamat Bah, has declared sex tourists unwanted in the country.
“We are not a sex destination. If you want a sex destination, you go to Thailand. The Gambia is not a sex destination. We are not, we are not and please every Gambian must sing that song,” Bah said in an interview in January.
He went on to warn that foreigners engaging in sexual activities with underage Gambians will be prosecuted.
The minister’s statement, which expresses the new government’s policy of emphasising morality in the tourism sector, has however sparked a diplomatic row with Thailand.
Thai diplomats in Senegal, who had jurisdiction for The Gambia, have filed a letter of displeasure with the Gambian government while a similar letter was sent to the Gambian embassy in Malaysia, which also serves Thailand.
Thailand, which is also working to rebrand their country just as Gambia, felt insulted by the Gambian minister’s reference to the Asian country as a destination for sex tourism.
Thailand Thai Culture minister Veera Rojpojchanarat has said that sex tourism used to be prevalent but has since dropped because of the country’s focus on “morality.”
Gambia is popular as a destination for Europeans. Apparently, winter season is high-time for tourism in Gambia and some of those visitors do go to the country for more than just the beaches.
Many young Gambians, especially men, seek to bond with female tourists for cash or to enable them emigrate. Many of the women desire a holiday ‘romance’.
The problem got so worse that the government of former President Yahya Jammeh had to introduce beach police to check the excesses of young men looking for female tourists.
Moreover, female prostitution is also widespread in the country even though illegal.