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But is the situation different if the person selling their body is male? I’m sure many of the women involved in The Gambia’s sex tourism justify their actions on the basis that the men get to have sex and get paid for the fun of it, so is there really any harm? Our conversation extended to the waiter, the taxi driver on the way home and a number of locals at our hotel and the answer was consistent amongst us – a resounding yes: it is a problem and there is harm.Any ‘relationship’ that is born out of need rather than want is exploitative regardless of whether it is a man or woman paying for sex.In The Gambia it is middle-aged Western women that are throwing down rolls of Dalasi, the local currency, in exchange for a grapple with the firm bodies of the young Gambian men.I have not led a sheltered life and my friends would place my behavior closer to sinner than saint.However, it wasn’t until we sauntered down the Senegambia Strip that it dawned on me that the offer from several Bumsters to experience ‘The Real Gambia’ might well have had illicit undertones.It wasn’t the only warning sign – the night before we had giggled like adolescents at the sight of two fellow female hotel guests flanking a good looking local guy all but dragging him back to their room, his feet barely touched the ground in cartoon fashion as they marched.
However, with the assistance of a recommended driver or tour guide, it is perfectly possible to enjoy a sex tourism free stay in this beautiful swatch of Africa. I stayed in Kombo Beach Hotel and I’d have no hesitation recommending this place.We spent our entire night engaged in debate about the issue.Few people would disagree that the situation in Thailand is unacceptable as young girls and women trade the sanctity of their bodies for the necessity of money.Yet there is a much bigger problem that persists and one that makes me sick to my core – the enduring exploitation of people from ‘poor’ countries (The Gambia and Thailand to name just two) by those from richer nations (Europe, the USA and Australia amongst them).I don’t suppose for a second that I have the power to end prostitution, but I can spend my Dalasi wisely, encouraging a different, more wholesome kind of tourism by using local tour guides, buying fruit from the beach sellers, eating in local restaurants and investing in handicrafts. Did we consider the preferential position of going under the company of two men and therefore warding off the advances of many? Did we decide it was much easier and far less risky to stay home alone with our own club beats? The Gambia is a very beautiful country with many men and women earning a living outside of sex tourism.