We need to declare a war on child sex crime to save thousands of children who are victims of rape and commercial sexual exploitation. A hundred thousand minors are trafficked every year — they are raped and abused and get addicted to drugs. The drugs make them weak, docile and submissive. That’s what the abusers want, a weak vulnerable child over whom they have total power.
The girls are forced to pay for their board and lodging, food and the drugs. They are caught in a web of debt from which there is almost no escape. There is no question that government officials are more interested in promoting the sex bars, traffickers and pimps than in curbing the trade. They issue the operating permit so the clubs can flourish. They are unwilling to close down a sex bar because they attract local and foreign tourists willing to spend big money. Minors are especially victimized and lured into the sex business.
That’s what happened to Dee,14, who was groomed online by a so-called boyfriend with whom she had an imagined infatuation and who she thought loved her. This is a favorite tactic of the human trafficker and the abuser. Dee fell for it. She was lured to a house where she and some of her friends met Johnrey, her so-called texting lover. There was a party and soon he had sexually assaulted her. She did not complain, thinking it was sexual-love and it was OK.
Dee was then encouraged to have sex, drugs and alcohol with other friends of Johnrey. The teenager was one of the hundred thousand abused children sold into the sex industry in the Philippines. Soon, she was being sold to more customers and it was the end of her childhood.
The main customers of the sex trade are the tourists from abroad. They come to Southeast Asia, especially the Philippines because they know that while some sex tourists are arrested and some are set up for exploitation by the corrupt police, they believe they can easily get away with sexually exploiting and abusing a child by paying bribes.
There is also strong evidence that the incidence of cyber-sex crimes or online sexual exploitation of children is increasing. A recent study conducted by UNICEF titled Perils and Possibilities: Growing up online reveals that globally there are around 75,000 child predators online at anytime and many of them are trying to contact children in the Philippines. In 2015, the Philippines Office of Cybercrime received 12,374 cyber tips from the US-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Also, the number of criminal cases of live stream child abuse in the Philippines is rising, from 57 in 2013, to 89 in 2014, and 167 in 2015.
Cyber sex crimes are very difficult to track. Oftentimes, parents and relatives of the victims are also involved. There is a growing acceptance of this form of earning money. And so children are videoed live on the internet.
A study published in 2016 by the Philippine Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) estimates that every 53 minutes, a woman or child is raped and that seven in 10 victims of violence were children. The CWR report further said that despite the alarming number, victims could hardly find help. Without support, aggravated by the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators, they are helpless. Violence against women is prevalent and they need to have knowledge of their rights and a contact organization to get help.
We need to get help for the children who are being targeted by human traffickers like Dee. If it were not for the help of the Preda Foundation, she would have been lost to the sex trade forever. Dee got help and was rescued from the brothel and brought to the Preda home for girls where she had a life-changing experience. Today, she is a healthy young woman reunited with her family and going to school.
But of the hundred thousand victims, there are many more to be saved and much preventive education and social campaigning to be done. We have to wake up the conscience of the nation and make the people aware that the commercial sexual exploitation of children and young women has been accepted as part of the economy. It is a business from which the rich greatly profit. We have to speak out and stand against it and declare the dignity of every child and woman.