Study sounds alarm over PH’s online child sex exploitation

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Dr. Marie Therese Galang (PSTCRRC Researcher) discusses about the Nature of Involvement in the Commercial Sex Industry (Photo: Mike Quilala)

MANILA, June 5, 2016 – Moving from bars and motels to computer screens, the commercial sexual exploitation and abuse of children is alive, well, and burgeoning in the Philippines, said a group of researchers at a stakeholders’ meeting yesterday, June 3 at the Sequioa Hotel, Quezon City.

“The CSEC (commercial sexual exploitation of children) has greatly changed in terms of the way transactions were mediated by technology. With the advancement of technology and the availability of the internet, computers, and smartphones facilitated CSEC and made containment or control more complex,” reads a research summary released by the Psychosocial Support and Children’s Rights Resource Center (PSTCRRC) on their findings about “Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents in Metro Manila.”

Using a multi-modal approach with 32 children, teens involved in the sex industry in the metro, a pimp, a poseur customer, and service providers, project leader Elizabeth Protacio – De Castro, Ph.D. together with her team, discovered that online transactions for sex involving minors happen via porn websites and social media sites, “blurring the formerly defined geographic boundaries of the industry.”

Online transactions for sex

With technology coloring the entire socio-cultural and economic landscape of the world, the researchers, who were commissioned by international NGO Plan International Philippines to do the study, found that on a perverse note, the sex industry had everything to gain from the digital culture.

“The availability of the technological environment has provided pathways, options for sex trade involvement: whether to transact face to face (personal) or online (internet-mediated); whether to go freelance or through a pimp; whether to be a sex provider or have other concurrent roles (attacker, group administrator, pimp,” added the statement.

While the industry has taken to the internet like a fish to water, those at the forefront of battling sex abuse of children are lagging behind in using technology to stamp out this social and moral scourge.

“What is concrete here I think, all of us should work our way to become digital citizens already. The generation now are the digital citizens… We are digital migrants. We have not migrated to their world… Do we know need to acquire a digital citizenship so that we will be able to help them?,” asked Dinah Palmera Nadera, M.D., one of the PSTCRRC researchers during an open forum after the presentation of the study.

Thousands of children exploited

For Badeene Verora, a gender specialist from Plan International Philippines, the study only stresses the urgency and complexity of the situation that is said to involve some 60,000 to 100,000 prostituted children in the Philippines, ranking 4th among nine nations, according to ECPAT International’s 2008 figures.

“What now? We have all been briefed with these realities, what now? The first here.. [is to] present this study to the mayors of Metro Manila and the Council for the Welfare of the Children. Focus on community-based recovery and healing programs,” said Verora, concluding the forum.

She also mentioned the importance of parental support and involvement in the CSEC issue.

According to the PSTCRRC paper, the study was undergone because of the need to update the facts and figures about CSEC in the Philippines. (Nirva’ana Ella Delacruz / CBCPNews)

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