LONDON, March 30 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) -
T echnological advances, including the spread of high-speed
internet, have fuelled a surge in the Philippines of the sexual
abuse of children as young as one years old in front of a live
webcam, an anti-slavery group said.
Victims of this crime are often much younger than those
trapped in other forms of modern slavery, said International
Justice Mission (IJM), which started a campaign this week to
raise awareness about cybersex trafficking.
"It's particularly brutal because it targets incredibly
young boys and girls ... who are often being exploited for
profit by the very people that should protect them - their
parents," said IJM UK's chief executive David Westlake.
IJM said more than half the victims it has rescued have been
between one and 12 years old.
The charity said one child it rescued was a seven-year-old
boy who was made to perform sexual acts with his two-year-old
sister in footage streamed to global viewers.
The United Nations children's agency UNICEF estimates 1.8
million children are trafficked into the sex trade every year -
but this does not include cybersex trafficking.
The Philippines national police receive well over 2,000
referrals of potential online exploitation of children a month,
according to the IJM.
The Philippine Department of Justice reported more than
8,000 referrals from the U.S.-based National Center for Missing
& Exploited Children in the first four months of 2015.
IJM, whose campaign is called #NotOnMyScreen, said cybersex
trafficking is a relatively low risk crime since it is committed
in private in the home.
It said the widespread use of English in the Philippines was
another reason why the crime has surged in the Southeast Asian
country since viewers from around the world often give the
victims instructions in English.
Westlake said perpetrators and viewers are protected by
online anonymity and anyone can carry out the crime with just
internet access and a webcam or a mobile phone.
"Although it happens over the internet, it's real abuse
happening to real children right now," he said.
(Reporting by Ed Upright, Editing by Katie Nguyen.; Please
credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson
Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights,
trafficking and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)