A global alliance of child-focused international non-government organizations calls on the national and local governments to intensify efforts against online sexual exploitation against children (OSEC).
MANILA, Philippines — Taking advantage of the quarantine situation, perpetrators could easily groom children online and coerce them to send and receive sexually explicit messages, images, and videos.
“With the indefinite suspension of classes due to COVID-19, children are spending more time on the internet, exposed to the dangers of OSEC,” said Euan Crawshaw, Philippine Country Manager of Terre des Hommes – Netherlands.
Children and young adults may experience boredom and economic stress as they stay at home for prolonged periods of time, pushing them to engage in risky behaviors in exchange for money.
“With parents and guardians preoccupied with economic, health, and security concerns, children may end up browsing the internet unsupervised,” Cranshaw added.
“As the lockdown bars many people from going to work, they look for various alternatives to sustain family income. Going online to sell sexually explicit materials is among the options, particularly in the Philippines where OSEC has been rampant even before the COVID-19 pandemic,” he explained.
We, the Joining Forces Alliance, support the Filipino children in their call to eliminate OSEC — as reflected in the National Children Manifesto on OSEC, which is written by the children themselves.
We also commend the relentless efforts of the government. And we will support the government in providing services to victim-survivors and in ensuring that children are safe.
Now more than ever, our joint efforts should be intensified. Hence, we are calling on the national government — through the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Inter-Agency Council Against Child Pornography; the Department of Justice’s Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking; and the Philippine National Police’s Anti-Cybercrime Group and Women and Children Protection Center — to further strengthen efforts in combating OSEC during this health crisis:
● Ensure that mechanisms for reporting, referral, and responding to OSEC cases are functional at all times, both at the national and local level.
● Raise awareness on OSEC through television, radio, and social media, where people mostly spend their time during the crisis.
● Establish a database and monitoring system for OSEC reports related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are also calling on local government units (LGUs) to increase efforts in preventing OSEC among their constituents.
“Social protection and safety net interventions for the COVID-19 response should address heightened and complex physical and economic risks and vulnerabilities of children and low-income households,” said Selena Fortich, Plan International’s Country Program Manager for Child Protection.
“Government interventions should focus on Filipino workers whose source of income were affected due to the temporary closure of business and work, as well as families living below the poverty line,” Fortich emphasized. “The government must ensure that such economic needs are met to prevent parents from selling sexual images of their children online.”
We, the Joining Forces Alliance, put forward these recommendations for LGUs:
● Provide adequate financial and material assistance (i.e., cash, food, or non-food items) to families whose livelihoods are affected.
● Ensure that prevention measures are functional at all times, such as awareness campaigns, barangay-level reporting mechanisms, and activation of Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC) desks.
● Devise alternative reporting mechanisms that is more accessible to the public.
● Consider the unique needs of victims of violence, such as the need to move homes during quarantine restrictions.