Thursday, July 19, 2007

Costa Rica toughens sexual exploitation laws

San Jose, Costa Rica (Reuters) - Costa Rica toughened its laws against sexual exploitation of children on Wednesday, banning possession of child pornography and extending the statute of limitations for sex crimes against minors.

Costa Rica has become something of a haven for sex tourism with widespread underage prostitution. Many foreign sex offenders have been arrested and extradited from the Central American country.

Signing the reforms into law, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias said the country must face up to its problem with sexual exploitation.

“We are at the same time victims and accomplices of many of the evils that we complain of,” said Arias.

The reformed laws ban possession of child pornography for the first time and make sex with children under 13 punishable by up to 16 years in prison.

Sexual exploitation of minors, especially child prostitution, has grown over the last 20 years with Costa Rica’s tourism boom.

Police say efforts to crack down on child prostitution has driven it underground into the control of criminal organizations.

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