How sex rings lure children via NetBy TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Internet café owners in the Philippines and other Asian countries could play a crucial role in the fight against child exploitation by being on the lookout for signs of “grooming.”
Bindu Sharma, Asia-Pacific policy director of the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC), defined grooming as the actions taken by an adult to prepare a child for sexual relations.
Speaking at an Asean conference on cyber pornography and prostitution, Sharma said grooming could take two forms: Online enticement and solicitation in which an adult uses the Internet to lure or persuade a child to meet for sexual relations; and exposing children to pornography to lower his or her inhibitions.
She said the first form could take place via email or Internet chats “wherein adults posing as younger people try to befriend kids.”
“Maybe we need to put together a code of conduct for Internet café proprietors. They need to be aware that these are the risks to children and this is what they need to do and sign on to the responsibility,” she said in an interview.
Sharma spoke at the three-day Asean Conference on Working Toward a Cyber Pornography and Cyber Prostitution-free Southeast Asia, which was organized by the Department of Social Welfare and Development and opened on Tuesday at Diamond Hotel in Manila.
Child pornography had become a $250-million global industry, and yet little research had been done about it in Asia, Sharma said.
“In Asia, few governments and law enforcement units collect such data, and fewer still make them available for purposes of reporting and research,” she said, noting that majority of children in child abuse images are Caucasians.
Citing a 2010 report by the International Watch Foundation, Sharma said Asia accounts for 17 percent of Internet addresses promoting sex abuse, while Europe accounted for 40 percent.
“We have to keep in mind that these figures are based solely on successful police action in countries where there is adequate legislation and law enforcement is proactively investigating such behavior. The true number is likely to be higher,” she said.
According to Sharma, Asia has become the biggest user of the Internet worldwide, making up 45 percent of the 2.2 billion users as of Dec. 31, 2011, with three Asian countries, including the Philippines, landing in the Top 20.
“Many say (child pornography) is a Western problem. But as you heard, Facebook sees it in countries where people are using Facebook all over Asia. It’s obviously there in our societies in Asia. And with the Internet, it brings it to the fore,” she said.