This World: Child Rescuers

Star rating: 5/5.

20 June, BBC2.

According to UN estimates about one million children are sexually exploited every year around the globe. That’s the equivalent of the total population of Manchester, Leicester and Coventry combined, writes Graham Hopkins. With a crackdown in the Far East, opportunistic sex tourists seeking safe destinations began looking toward Costa Rica with its prerequisite poverty and weak laws; five years ago it wasn’t even a crime to have sex with a minor. However, they hadn’t reckoned on Bruce Harris, a director of the children’s rights charity, Casa Alianza, the star of this remarkable film.

With the authorities turning a blind eye to this burgeoning industry, Harris decided to do their job for them. His video evidence from undercover filming secured a 30-year sentence for notorious pimp Tony Max. The case opened the floodgates.

The appointment of Liliam Gomez as special prosecutor for sex crimes indicated the country’s resolve; although with a backlog of 400 cases, resources could be better: Gomez and her eight (untrained) investigators have only two cars and one camera between them.

The tales of rescued children were as soul-destroying as their resilience was inspiring. Nadia was seven when it was decided by her mother that she (Nadia) would become a prostitute. Tina, now 12, had been exploited from the age of four: “My mother would tie me up and then undress me. Then four men would arriveÉ”

Harris has been involved in elaborate stings that have even resulted in the US extraditing for the first time one of its citizens to Costa Rica. Harris was at the airport to see him arrive. It was a moment he had waited six hungry years for. Justice was being served.

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