Why sexual abuse of children has become alarming

Our law enforcement agencies cannot do it alone; they need legislative and socio-economic responses as well from other agencies of government.

September 9, 2022

The sexual exploitation of children comes in two broad forms: Commercial sexual exploitation and online sexual exploitation.

The first contemplates situations where those who are less than 18 engage in or are made to engage in prostitution, pornography or lascivious acts for money or in consideration of some pecuniary benefit, or due to coercion or influence by any adult or group. The second occurs when the sexual exploitation of children is made possible or is facilitated by computers, digital devices and the Internet.

Currently, we have a collection of laws with which we can fight sexual exploitation of children. Such laws include Republic Act 7610 (Special Protection of Children against Abuse and Exploitation Act of 1992), RA 9775 (Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009) and RA 10364 (Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012). Child trafficking for sexual purposes may be defined as engaging in the trading and dealing of children, including the buying and selling of a child for money, barter or for any other consideration.

Despite this, however, we seem to be still not able to control the twin scourges of child sexual abuse and online child sexual abuse. Part of the difficulty is that these offenses are hidden and, therefore, difficult to trace. Most times, the traffickers are the victim’s own parents or siblings.

The fact that sexual offenses many times have no perceptible victims — that is, they are supposedly victimless crimes — also contributes to the difficulty in enforcing the laws. What is not readily seen as far as child victims are concerned is that they may not grow up normal and become burdens to society.

The root cause why these crimes are prevalent in the country is poverty, such that for the promise of money or some other type of gain, even parents are induced to give their children up for hire, sale or trade to those who look for sexual satisfaction from children.

Online sexual exploitation is particularly prevalent because of the widespread use of computers and the inexpensive cost of access to the Internet. The ease of money transfer facilities exponentially increases the commission of these acts.

Also, our country has a lot of English-speaking citizens; and foreigners who have heard of the historical depiction of our country as a “hot sex” destination can easily communicate with local pimps who can supply them with sexual partners, including children.

As to online sexual abuse, the International Justice Mission, in a 2019 publication titled Online Sexual Exploitation of Children in the Philippines, reported that “according to global law enforcement data, the Philippines was the largest known source country of OSEC (online sexual exploitation of children) cases,” followed, remotely by Mexico and Brazil.

And UNICEF has said in a separate 2016 study, “National Study on Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children in the Philippines,” that “The Philippines has emerged as the center of child abuse materials production in the world.”

This is something that should alarm us, and at the very least, our duty to our country is to report to the authorities the presence and location of those we believe use their homes or apartments as venues for sexual abuse or online sexual exploitation of children.

With the cooperation of the citizenry, law enforcement response by notably the Department of Justice, the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police to the crimes of sexual abuse could be improved in frequency and in efficiency as may be shown by the rate of convictions of those taken to court.

But our law enforcement agencies cannot do it alone; they need legislative and socio-economic responses as well from other agencies of government, as well as the participation of civil society. All concerned should also establish meaningful collaborations with similar agencies abroad, because offenders and victims are all over the world and not just in the Philippines.

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