MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has become a top global source of child pornography with around 80% of Filipino kids at risk of online sexual abuse or bullying, a global Unicef report said Tuesday, December 12.
This year’s State of the World’s Children report, entitled “Children in a Digital World,” focused on the opportunities and risks for children online.
One in 3 internet users globally is a child, the report said. The pervasiveness of the internet coupled with less supervision from parents has opened a myriad of possibilities, some of which are potentially dangerous.
Websites, mobile apps and online payment methods have helped accelerate the proliferation of sex trafficking and “made to order” child pornography. (Rappler Talk: Sex trafficking in the digital age)
“Child pornography is a billion-dollar industry, and Filipino children are the ones being traded and exploited online. Children who are made to perform sex acts in front of a web camera will never get their childhood back. We must all work together to protect our children,” Unicef Country Representative Lotta Sylwander said.
The report noted that online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) was the leading form of cybercrime in 2014. One case study cited by Unicef showed that while abuse starts in the digital space, it can lead to physical prostitution. (READ: Facebook groups open more channels for PH cybersex trade – study)
In the case study, a 12-year-old Filipino girl was forced to livestream sexual acts from her neighbor’s house, earning about $3 for each “show.” Her clients later flew in from the United States to the Philippines, and she would have been sexually maltreated had she not been rescued by the authorities.
This poses a threat not only to a child’s mental wellness but also to his/her health. The report noted that there are some 5,200 10-19 year-olds and around 500 children under age 15 living with HIV.
To counter the threats, Unicef Philippines continues to engage with social media networks, remittance agencies and internet service providers to establish policies to protect children from the sex trade.
The UN body is also conducting 3 studies that will help understand the root causes of child sex trafficking. These are the Kids Online Survey; the National Study on Child Online Sexual Exploitation; and Changing Social Behavior on Child Online Protection in Communities. (READ: When kids don’t know they are victims of sexual abuse)
Aside from these, the Philippine government has also stepped up in terms of protecting children’s online welfare by including a child online protection provision in Republic Act 10929, or the Free Internet in Public Places Act, that was signed into a law last August.
Other interventions were the approval of a National Response Plan to Prevent and Address Child Online Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and the adoption of the Supreme Court of the module on child online protection for family court
The Philippine government has met the US’ minimum standards against human trafficking for two years, according to the US State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report. However, Unicef said there is still work needed to be done on the issue.
Unicef recommends an enhanced cooperation and collaboration of the offices under the Inter-Agency Council Against Child Pornography and Trafficking.
The government should also “expand competency development” of frontlines providing trauma care for victims and capacitate parents in understanding the risks of the internet. – Rappler.com