Online exploitation of children is a pertinent topic of discussion in this era of ICT explosion in the developing countries. The 'Sweetie' research carried out by Terre des Hommes Netherlands in 2013, showed the extent and nature of online sexual exploitation of children worldwide. As a result of the expansion in ICT in Africa, more and more children are exposed to online threats. Offenders easily access vulnerable children online which has resulted in a quick rise of online sexual exploitation of children.
Since there is limited (data) information on child online exploitation, Terre des Hommes Netherlands has conducted a quick scan on ‘The growth of ICT and its impact on children's protection in Kenya’. During two consecutive days, I have presented the research outcomes during the 21st ISPCAN Congress.
To have an evidenced based programme, research has to be made part and parcel of a programme.
Online sexual exploitation of children is a worrying trend that has the potential to skyrocket in East Africa, particularly in Kenya since it is the most technologically advanced country in the region. Evidence of the existence of the phenomenon is mainly anecdotal, due to its illicit nature, the lack of data and lack of reporting by victims and their families. Nevertheless, Kenyan children are being groomed and recruited into online sexual exploitation. This exploitation manifests as sextortion, sexting and other forms of virtual sex. Children need to be protected from any form of exploitation. At the same time, detection and prosecution need to be stepped up by boosting resources and capacity to trace online perpetrators. This issue will remain a top priority within Terre des Hommes Netherlands’ work, in East Africa as well as worldwide.
The diverse group of professionals in the conference has not only enhanced my knowledge in child protection, but also given me a new appreciation on the importance of engaging different professionals in the reintegration and recovery process of abused children. The mental recovery of a child is as important as ensuring their physical integrity and safety. Child protection actors therefore need to work closely with mental health professionals to help children overcome trauma and regain normalcy.
It doesn't matter the age, it doesn't matter the ethnic background, the impact of abuse is the same. We should focus not on the incidents but on the impact. Incidents vary, but the impact is the same."
Key note speaker Sheldon Kennedy
The International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN), founded in 1977, is the only multidisciplinary international organisation that brings together a worldwide cross-section of committed professionals to work towards the prevention and treatment of child abuse, neglect and exploitation globally. ISPCAN's mission is to prevent cruelty to children in every nation, in every form. ISPCAN holds one international congress every two years to bring together professionals from around the world to share practical information and research, as well as to meet and discuss opportunities to advance a worldwide effort to prevent child abuse and neglect. The 21st ISPCAN congress is taking place from 28 to 31 August 2016 in Calgary, Canada, with the theme ´Protecting our Children, Protecting our Future´.