These are external links and will open in a new window Close share panel Image copyright AFP Image caption Anti-paedophile activists say some convicted Australians travel to South East Asia to act with impunity Australia has passed tough, "world-first" legislation that will deny passports to about 20, people on the national child sex offenders register.
The aim is to stop Australians who are planning to abuse children in regions like South East Asia before they even get on a plane. But how will it work, is it fair and will other countries follow suit? Many went to poor countries in Asia that are common holiday destinations for Australians, but also magnets for sex tourism. Senator Derryn Hinch, an outspoken former talk radio host who pushed for the legislation, said he wanted to end "child rape holidays" to places like Myanmar, Cambodia, the Philippines and Indonesia.
At present those on the register - which is not publicly available - are allowed to travel but must notify local authorities before they do so. Australia in turn notifies the destination country. But the government says the system has not worked effectively enough and the new rules will make Australia a "world leader" in protecting vulnerable children.
Always a sex offender? There are 3, people on the register for life who will now never be able to get a passport. Others will lose their right to travel only while they remain on the register. Offenders will be able to apply for a temporary travel document to leave the country in case of an emergency - such as a dying family member abroad - and those already overseas will be allowed to return home.
The law has been welcomed by groups that track sex offenders in the region, and passed parliament with bipartisan support, but there are also critics. They say the broad nature of the legislation will take away the right to travel overseas from many people who might never re-offend, including hundreds of young people who find themselves registered for offences like "sexting".
The logic of the law, critics say, is predicated on the idea that sex offenders never change, even after treatment or jail time. They argue it still won't stop many crimes committed by opportunistic travellers with no prior convictions. It is "based on the belief that someone who is once a sex offender is always a sex offender," says Tamara Lave, an associate professor of law at the University of Miami and a former public defender.
Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionShould the police work with self-appointed private individuals who've taken it upon themselves to catch paedophiles?
While she acknowledges that some registered offenders would pose a significant risk to children abroad if allowed to travel, the problem with the legislation in her view is that it represents "the legislature taking the decision away from a judge". Passports should be stripped from people on a case-by-case basis and dependent on how much risk the individual is deemed to pose by a court, she says.
Like groups including Human Rights Watch, she argues that sex offenders have low recidivism rates. She points to a US justice department study that found of 9, male sex offenders including 4, child molesters released from prisons in 15 states in , only 5.
But others argue that many re-offenders will not be caught. Senator Hinch's response to criticisms made on human rights grounds is unequivocal. Image copyright Interpol Image caption Dutch businessman Pieter Ceulen was convicted in Belgium for child sex offences but fled to Cambodia and was caught in March after looking for a job as a teacher Anti-paedophile groups in South East Asia like Action Pour Les Enfants APLE say that Australia is taking the lead on an important issue that other countries should follow.
In Cambodia, APLE works with police to track down child sex offenders and says it helped arrest foreigners suspected of child sex offences between and the - a time period that saw a boom in tourism to the country.
Of the foreigners who ended up being convicted, APLE was only able to determine if 43 of the offenders had a previous conviction - and 26 did. Between and , the group says it helped to arrest 43 Americans, 29 French citizens, 23 Britons, 12 Australians, 12 Germans, 10 Dutch people, eight Swiss and five Canadians, in addition to nationals from Austria, Belgium, Sweden, Russia, Japan, South Korea and elsewhere.
Locals are believed to be responsible for the majority of child sex offences committed in Cambodia and the region, but APLE's work focuses on foreigners. Although child sex tourism has been pushed underground in Cambodia in recent years due to large-scale awareness campaigns, "you still have foreign nationals coming over here thinking they can commit crimes", says Jim McCabe, a former Australian police officer who works with Cambodian police investigating crimes against children.
It's a bold move that should be applauded. The island of Bali in Indonesia, a hotspot for Australian tourists in general, is also a destination. But registered offenders are reported to have been increasingly turned away at the border in recent years after tip-offs from Australian authorities. He says his organisation has seen information being shared online detailing what villages in remote areas of Bali should be targeted, how much money should be paid to families and how to bribe police if caught.
In the state of Victoria, for example, anyone above the age of 18 convicted for possessing an explicit picture or video of someone under 18 is placed on the register for at least eight years. Those under 18 can also be registered at the discretion of judges, though there are exceptions for children caught sexting if they are close in age. Other Australian states have similar laws. There are likely hundreds of young people on the national register who could now lose their right to travel due to past offences like sexting, or having been in a relationship with someone under 16 when they were 18 or 19, says Katie Acheson, CEO of the Sydney-based advocacy group Youth Action.
Victoria allows those who were 18 or 19 when they committed such offences to appeal to a court have their names taken off the register, but other states don't provide that option. Image copyright PA Image caption UK pop star Gary Glitter went to South East Asia after a child pornography conviction in and was jailed in Vietnam in for molesting two girls No similar push in the UK Recent legal changes in the UK have made it easier for authorities to restrict the travel of registered offenders.
More than 2, sexual harm prevention orders - which can include travel restrictions - were issued by courts in England and Wales between 8 March and 29 September But campaigners say more needs to be done, including monitoring, though they are not yet pushing for similar legislation as Australia. A freedom of information request to the Foreign Office in found that there were Britons detained in foreign countries for child sex offences.
Mark Frost , who was jailed for life in February and admitted 39 sexual offences against boys in Thailand between and , had a history of offences and "should have been stopped" from travelling, she says.
But an Australian-style law will not stop what she calls "situational offenders" - the large number of businesspeople or tourists who have no prior legal record of child sex offences but find themselves in a foreign country where they have access to children and commit crimes there. For children targeted by that kind of offender, "withdrawing their passports will not help".