Updated at 1:46 p.m. ET
Registered child sex offenders would lose their Australian passports under a new law aimed at preventing convicted pedophiles from victimizing children overseas. Officials call the proposal a “world first” in the fight against child sex tourism.
The Australian reports the law would affect an estimated 20,000 registered offenders who have served their sentences but are still under supervision and must report to authorities.
“This new legislation represents the toughest crackdown on child sex tourism by any government, anywhere,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said, adding that Australia is “determined to prevent the sexual exploitation of vulnerable young children overseas.”
The law would prevent registered child sex offenders from traveling beyond the reach of Australia’s authorities to what Bishop described as “vulnerable countries” where children are at risk.
ECPAT International, a Bangkok-based non-profit group that fights sexual exploitation of children, described child sex tourism as “the exchange of cash, clothes, food or some other form of consideration to a child or to a third party for sexual contact.”
From Melbourne, reporter Louisa Lim tells NPR, “Last year, around 800 registered child sex offenders went overseas from Australia, half of them to Southeast Asia.”
Countries in the Asia-Pacific region wanted Australia to address the issue, according to The Associated Press.
The legislation comes on the heels of a notorious case, in which Australian Robert Andrew Fiddes Ellis was found to have abused 11 girls in Bali, Indonesia, over the course of two years, Australia’s ABC reports. The victims ranged in age from seven to 17. Ellis was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
The network says registered child sex offenders are supposed to tell authorities when they travel overseas, but many do not.
Bishop unveiled the proposed law Tuesday alongside Justice Minister Michael Keenan. It is being introduced in Parliament this week.