(Warning this content may be confronting and distressing to some readers.)
I am writing this blog predominantly as an education piece. Although we have not been directly affected by this in our work in Cambodia, it is incredibly alarming and heart wrenching to watch this industry proliferate and destroy the lives of so many vulnerable children.
Traditionally the victims of live distant child abuse were based in South-East Asia, in particular the Philippine however, more recent reports indicate that it is now spreading to other countries. Regions of the world with high levels of poverty, limited domestic child protection measures and easy access to children are being targeted by offenders.
It is particularly disheartening to know that in Australia we have men who are directly responsible for perpetrating this evil. Whilst most people cannot go and directly investigate and rescue, we can become aware, educate ourselves and support those who are laying their lives on the line to rescue these precious children. Although AusCam is not working currently in the Philippines, we are looking at ways where we can stand up and fight.
The figures are staggering: every single day hundreds of thousands of children are victim of webcam sex. The official estimate is that at any time of the day, over 750,000 men worldwide are looking for online sex with children in more than 40,000 public chat rooms. (Terresdehommes)
Cybersex trafficking is the sexual abuse of children broadcast over the internet in exchange for money. It is a type of sex trafficking that was unimaginable before the digital age. Suddenly, children are exposed to a global web of predators. (IJM) The emergence of fast technology has become the worst possible enabler for the exploitation and abuse of children.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) is warning of an alarming trend where Australians are directing the sexual abuse of children living overseas using streaming services like skype. In 2015, the AFP reported that the number of child exploitation referrals more than doubled. In 2014 they received 4,500 referrals and a staggering 11,000 in 2015. Children living in poverty are extremely vulnerable to exploitation. There are many situational factors for a child living in poverty that compounds their vulnerability and leaves them open to being coerced into dangerous situations.
In Southeast Asia, the cybersex industry is growing rapidly. In countries like the Philippines, Cambodia and Indonesia, abject poverty and a growing digital infrastructure are contributing to its expansion. In 2015, South east Asia had over 1.6 million Internet users. The internet, webcams and advances in livestream video have completely changed the rules of engagement and has now become the main broker of the global sex market and in particular the global sexual exploitation of children.
Poverty becomes a breeding ground for the sexual exploitation of children.
In remote Philippine villages and impoverished urban areas increasing numbers of children, including toddlers, are being forced to perform sex acts that are streamed online to paedophiles around the world. Police say the Philippines has emerged as the key hub of a billion-dollar cybersex industry where most of the victims are under 18 but some are as young as two.
Human rights groups estimate that tens of thousands of children in the Philippines are forced to perform sexual acts in Internet cafes or their homes. It is much easier for anonymous buyers to purchase sex online and also gives them more ready access to children, who are often willingly exploited in the home by a relative desperate for money. Some families have started the cybersex business with only a laptop. They usually get between 10 and 100 dollars per "show" - a big amount in a country where around 60 percent of the population earns only two dollars a day. "Traditionally the victims of live distant child abuse were based in South-East Asia, in particular the Philippines. [However], More recent reports indicate that it is now spreading to other countries. Regions of the world with high levels of poverty, limited domestic child protection measures and easy access to children are being targeted by offenders..." (BBC report 28.9.16)
“My name is Sweetie, I am 10 years old. Every day I have to sit in front of the computer and talk to men. Just like tens of thousands of other kids.”
1,000 men were caught trying to pay a computer-generated child to perform sex acts online, after the Dutch child rights group Terre des Hommes set up a fake profile. They carried out a 10-week sting near Amsterdam, posing on video chat rooms as "Sweetie", a 10-year-old Filipina girl. Some 20,000 men contacted her, with 1,000 found to have offered her money.
Sweetie has become world news – the campaign has reached around one billion people worldwide. Webcam Child Sex Tourism is now on the political agenda. Several governments have implemented or are preparing more effective measures to prohibit and punish online child abuse.
Several offenders have been arrested. The first conviction of one of them in Australia meant a major breakthrough in terms of accountability and is a direct outcome of the Sweetie Campaign.
We will continue to keep you updated in how we will be supporting those who are directly fighting this crime.
Founder/International program Director
PROTECTION & EMPOWERMENT THROUGH EDUCATION, MENTORING & LIFE SKILLS
AusCam Freedom Project believes girls should be 'taught not trafficked'.
You can set a girl free by sponsoring her education here: