Paedophilia & Tourism

Ajay Noronha is the director of the film Bhailey which deals with CSA and tourism related to paedophilia, talks about how his journey and idea

Some chilled beer and fish curry rice is just the perfect antidote to the rat-race life in a big city like Bombay. And if you get to do it regularly, then you’re getting to be a good Goan! Which I am by birth…Susegad – the Portuguese word which so succinctly describes the unhurried way of life in Goa. With siesta being so sacred, you can’t possibly get a leaf to move in the afternoons… however the scene on the beaches is quite different. Besides seeking a tan, there are some tourists in search of young boys. One summer twelve years ago, I kept seeing very young boys teeming around elderly single white male tourists. I didn’t bother at first, but soon I noticed that often these men would pick these boys up, fondle them and even kiss them. And this recurred intermittently as I walked along the beaches of North Goa – Anjuna, Baga, Calangute, Candolim. This sight disturbed me.

I got chatting with shack owners on the beach and their response upset me even more. They claimed that ‘those’ children weren’t theirs (read Goan) and so it wasn’t their problem. ‘Those’ were lamani (gypsy) children from neighbouring states. This got me all wound up and decided to make some more inquiries – with social workers, taxi drivers, beach shack owners, etc. It became clear that Goa was becoming an increasingly favoured destination for paedophiles. Local apathy at one end and denial by the State Government just seemed to make it so much easier for these men. The social workers that I spoke with said that their biggest problem was countering the local attitude. I decided to make a film about it.

So here I was in Goa – shooting, doing sound, asking the questions…all on my own, never having done it before. It’s one thing to chat with people about paedophilia but quite something else to get them to speak on camera. The fear is real for them…especially for the beach shack guys who are eking a living out of serving their foreign clientele. But yes, it is remarkable how some of them stuck their neck out for me. There’s a lot of silence, unspoken bits that I hope the viewer sees through. This film brings together people in Goa and elsewhere, who feel strongly about this issue. Yes, it lacks a ‘victim’, a story many would have liked to see in the film. I did get close to meeting one of the boys abused in the famous Freddy Peat case. But I soon realised how traumatised his family was getting by my visits and I dropped the idea since I really needed him only so that my film would appear more convincing to my audience. The thought sickened me. However, getting Freddy Peat – the only paedophile to be convicted. Freddy Peat as expected denied being paedophile and wanted justice back then. He died in 2005.

On the other extreme is the officialdom. Government machinery – Chief Minister after Chief Minister on record has denied that Paedophilia exists in Goa. They maintain that Freddy Peat is an isolated case. During the one year of my filming for this film two paedophiles managed to escape the country, their Passports lying with the Goa Court. The Government not having the slightest idea! To such an extent that the Tourism Minister on my request for an interview, had the most amazing reply:

“Arre Baba, what you want to interview me for. There’s no Paedophilia activity in Goa.” And I say to her, “Ma’am you can say that for me on cam?”. Which she did!!

So little wonder I wanted to make this film with Goa as a case in point. Which is not to say that tourism related paedophilia is not happening elsewhere in India, Rajasthan, Pondicherry, Manali, Kovalam, Bombay…but the increased tourist inflow and the prevailing attitude are helping this activity to flourish.

But there’s some hope that one may be able to put an end to the abuse of young innocent children. At least after a few screenings in Goa, I feel this way. The response has been overwhelming. What I really liked that over 150 people turned up to see the film, a big number when you are a nobody. For a change and pleasantly so, there was no discussion on cinematic techniques, but bursts of a need to alter the situation in Goa. And much surprise that I had done this on my own with no financial support. In fact a lady came up to me and asked if she could offer me some money as her contribution to the screening. That was a big moment for me. Sure, I said, touched very deeply by this gesture.

Alongside, the NGOs have started a poster campaign against Paedophilia, and for a cleaner tourism. I travelled to the many seaside villages and screened the film which was followed by passionate discussions. This was more than I had hoped for – an eventually lead to an increase in awareness and change in attitude. With the tourism ministry planning to take tourist activity into the interiors of Goa to lessen the burden on the beaches, we need to be even more vigilant.

Great work Ajay, we at CSAAM are proud and hope that there be many more Ajay Noronha’s