The global COVID-19 crisis and lockdowns make children and young people more vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Due to COVID-19, many people lose their sources of income and families are under pressure, so children may be forced to offer sex in exchange for primary necessities of life.
The closure of schools and activities in communities has made children more dependent on themselves and increases the vulnerability to domestic and (online) sexual violence, abuse and exploitation. Children spend more time online which leads to more online contact with strangers where they can become victims of sexual abuse or exploitation. Being at home also increases the chances of psychosocial distress and mental health issues.
Children in vulnerable situations (living on the street, migrant children, children from poor families or separated from their caregivers) are less able to protect themselves against COVID-19 and have limited access to basic services. Lockdown situations encourage tension created by safety and security, health and money worries, and can contribute to the isolation of children..
Because governments are focussing on physical health, sexual exploitation and violence against children is receiving less attention. Therefore NGOs are getting more requests for help from children and young people and communities in relation to CSEC.
Down to Zero partners are adapting their activities to focus on the needs of children at risk of sexual exploitation in this crisis. Where possible, partner organisations are in touch with communities and children to increase awareness on the risk of sexual domestic violence, sexual abuse and exploitation and human trafficking amidst the focus on Covid prevention measures.
Teachers, communities and youth leaders are trained about increased risks and are encouraged to ensure that child protection systems continue to operate. Furthermore, child friendly messages on COVID-19, online services and long distance monitoring and counselling are provided. Online training for media on children's rights and reporting on the sexual exploitation of children is also taking place as seen in the following case stories.
Terre des Hommes’ partners in Indonesia are still providing legal aid to child victims and their families.
Childline Thailand, a partner organisation of Terre des Hommes in Bangkok, are taking measures to address the…
Down to Zero is an alliance in which Terre des Hommes, Plan International Nederland, Defence for Children-ECPAT, Free a Girl and ICCO Cooperation work together to end the sexual exploitation of children in ten countries in Asia and Latin America.
For more information you can contact Monique Demenint
(programme manager Down to Zero)