Children in the Cybersex Industry
They are six siblings; the eldest was 15 and the youngest was just four years old. Earlier this month, they were rescued from a cybersex den in the Philippines. The den turned out to be their house and the operators were their own parents.
According to the National Bureau of Investigation, the parents would order their children to strip naked and perform lewd acts in front of a web camera. They charged $25 from each online viewer. The couple admitted to engaging in the cybersex business for the past three years but have denied using their kids as performers. They were charged with child abuse, child pornography and qualified human trafficking, to all of which they pleaded not guilty.
It is a painful reality that sexual abuse and sex trafficking among children and teens have been long-running problems in the country. Some cities and tourist destinations are already well-known hotspots for prostitution and pedophilia. The Philippines ranks fourth in the highest number of prostituted children. About 60,000 to 100,000 kids are trafficked each year, a non-governmental organization said.
As the internet became more accessible and online pornography proved to be a huge money-making machine, cybersex dens also became a burgeoning business. Unlike the conspicuous red light districts, these online operations are more discreet and well-hidden from authorities. Operators can just rent a small apartment, get several computers and an internet service provider, and they’re in business. It’s pretty much like putting up an internet café, less the hassle of applying for a business permit.
Aside from the difficulty of apprehending perpetrators, the Philippines doesn’t have any laws yet that specifically cover cybercrimes. Charges on cybersex operations are based on existing laws on child abuse, pornography and human trafficking. Child abuse and child pornography are currently bailable offenses. Government agencies are also not properly equipped with up-to-date technology, technical expertise and human resources to monitor and apprehend cybersex den operators.
The six children who were rescued from the abuse of their own parents are now in the custody of the government’s social welfare department. What makes this family affair even more complicated is the mother is six months pregnant and will have to spend the final trimester of her pregnancy in jail. The couple have apologized for what they did; they said that they got into the cybersex business after they’ve lost their jobs.
For now, the siblings are safe although they will have a long way to go in dealing with the trauma of their horrific experience. But how many more children are still trapped in places with a web camera for which they will have to perform lewd acts? And how long will it take before they are rescued?
© UNICEF/NYHQ2006-1436/Ninfa Bito In August 2006 in the Philippines, a child's drawing depicts a large man overpowering a small girl. The drawing was made during a violence-awareness workshop at Katin-Aran Children's Center in Roxas City, capital of the central Capiz Province. The text on the drawing (left) reads "She was abused by her father."