Unicef urges Duterte gov’t to act on record child abuse cases
While the internet offers new opportunities in education amid the pandemic, it has also become a platform for threat and sexual abuse among children, an official of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) said on Wednesday.
In a statement, Unicef’s Philippine representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov said it was “imperative that we continue our efforts in safeguarding our children on digital platforms.”
She also reiterated the need to support the government “in employing a whole-of-government approach” in the fight against online sexual abuse of children.
In December last year, the Department of Justice (DOJ) reported receiving more than 2.8 million tips about online child sexual exploitation throughout 2021. This is more than double the number of the previous year’s tally at 1.3 million.
The DOJ’s Office of Cybercrime started official investigations for 268 cases, a jump from the 73 cases it handled in 2020.
The Philippines has previously been identified by Unicef as the “global epicenter of the livestream sexual abuse trade.”
To help ensure the safety of young people in digital platforms, Unicef launched SaferKidsPH program, an Australian government initiative that seeks to mitigate online sexual abuse and exploitation of children.
In line with Safer Internet Day on Feb. 8, monthlong activities such as a forum with internet service providers and a webinar will be conducted to tackle online sexual abuse and the protection of children online.
Based on the National Study on Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children in the Philippines, poverty is the main reason why children and families resort to these activities.
Perpetrators, usually foreigners, offer older children education or money in exchange for sexual pictures or videos.
Families, parents or relatives then become the facilitators of these abuses and force the children to undress or perform sexual activities in front of the camera.
“This is a hidden crime, unknown to many but experienced more and more by Filipino children in their own homes, in their own families and communities,” SaferKidsPH said on its website.
Unicef urged the government and civil society “to synergize and to put children’s rights and protection at the forefront of digital efforts.”
The organization also called on the House of Representatives and Senate to pass a bill on online sexual abuse and exploitation of children and asked for its “effective implementation if enacted.”