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Protecting online sexually exploited children in the Philippines

Wider access to the internet can pose various threats to the safety of children. In countries like the Philippines, the vulnerability of children living in already precarious situations is heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the Philippines alone, cases have tripled in numbers in the last three years. We partner with ECPAT Philippines and with Bidlisiw Foundation to tackle Online Child Sexual Exploitation (OCSE) in the Philippines.

Background

Online Child Sexual Exploitation (OCSE) is an on-going problem in the Philippines, where it affects boys and girls in various communities. Although it is difficult to have accurate official data, a study carried out by ECPAT, Interpol and Unicef estimates 2 million children have been subjected to “grave” instances of online sexual exploitation and abuse in just one year. In the context of this study, the term “grave” includes, for example, children being blackmailed to engage in sexual activities, or the sharing of sexual images without permission. A national study from 2016 indicates that one in two Filipino children experience online abuse, and one in four are exposed to sexually explicit content.

The 'no touch is no harm' myth

OCSE is a complex issue that is influenced by various factors. Poverty, dysfunctional or broken homes, poor parenting, peer influence, (lack of) family values, socio-cultural beliefs and norms all contribute to the vulnerability of children. In the Philippines, 23.7% of the population lived below the national poverty line in 2021.

Children and parents/caregivers have limited awareness and understanding of OCSE. The myth that 'no touch is no harm' and other social norms are persistent. Children hesitate to report on caregivers or other family members that facilitate or commit the offence. Consequently, OCSE is under-reported.

Goals

The goal of this programme is to prevent Online Child Sexual Exploitiation:

Prevent and respond

Capacity

Accessible

Approach

The programme will last 72 months, from June 2022 to August 2028 and will focus on the four target areas of Taguig City, Quezon City, Angeles City and Bohol.

Addressing a complex issue such as OCSE requires a system strengthening approach, so that child protection systems can address risk factors and reduce vulnerabilities while building upon the strengths and resilience of boys and girls, families, communities and governments.

Key elements are:

Participation

A skilled and stable social service workforce

Mobilisation

Support

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Partners

In this programme, we partner with ECPAT Philippines and Bidlisiw Foundation.

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