THE last time a worldwide effort was undertaken to go after clients of webcam child sex tourism was when a Netherlands-based organization created a computer-generated 10-year-old Filipino girl named “Sweetie.”
Webcam child sex tourism, as it was called then in 2013, emerged as a new way of abusing the internet after a Netherlands organization discovered this phenomenon with the use of “Sweetie” to track predators online.
The recent arrest in Cordova, Cebu, of a woman who used seven females and children, including her 17-year-old sister, in cyber pornography brings to mind the case of “Sweetie.”
“Sweetie” was created by the Terre Des Hommes Netherlands, a child protection agency, to impersonate a 10-year-old Filipino girl in a sting operation to lure online sexual predators. The group said its research and findings showed that the age of child victims of webcam child sex tourism ranges from 6 to 17 years old. In the arrest of the woman in Cordova last week, one of those rescued said she was sexually exploited online since she was 13 years old.
The Terre Des Hommes Netherlands said it discovered how Filipino children are denied their childhood and forced into sexual activities, at times with the prodding of relatives, in this operation. These children are told it is safe as no touching is involved, and it is a quick way to earn for the family. Most of the clients in webcam child sex tourism are people in first world countries.
The group said it was able to identify more than a thousand pedophiles from over 70 countries from the “Sweetie” project and it turned over the information to international law enforcement agencies.
The arrest of the Cordova woman was the result of efforts by the Women and Children’s Protection Center-Visayas Field Unit, the International Justice Mission and other government agencies. The woman was charged with violating laws against trafficking, cyber pornography and child abuse. She was not granted bail.
While there are arrests on the supply side, at Cordova in particular, there should also be action on the demand side, referring to the pedophiles or customers around the world who feed the business of online sexual exploitation of children.
A trend on the demand side of pornography is for younger victims, the reason why we read reports of infants and toddlers being used in cyber exploitation. This encourages sick-in-the-mind parents to use their own children because they are young and they seldom need convincing.
As the Terre Des Hommes Netherlands said, sometimes parents or family members convince children to engage in online sex activities. “Sometimes children are trafficked and held captive in ‘dens’ with other kids who are forced to perform sexual acts in front of webcams,” it said.
The “Sweetie” project targeted the demand side of this illegal operation. This effort should be continued as it is in going after the people who feed the business that children, including those in Cebu, will be protected.