Children as young as two months of age are being sexually abused online, in what a global charity says is a growing ‘dark’ trend of live-streamed child exploitation. Much of the demand comes from UK-based pedophiles.
‘Cybersex trafficking’ is a new form of exploitation, whereby children are being forced to perform sexual acts for the sexual gratification of online customers. The trend has become rampant in the Philippines, where police are receiving thousands of referrals each month, and almost 100 children have already been rescued in the past year.
According to the International Justice Mission (IJM), a global charity in charge of safeguarding poor communities while collaborating with local authorities, says most of the demand comes from Western pedophiles in places like the UK, Canada and the US.
David Westlake, chief executive of the organization’s UK branch, said: “Cybersex trafficking of children is a deeply disturbing global problem. Increased global access to technology and the internet means that this dark crime is growing at an alarming rate.
“Filipino police alone are receiving thousands of referrals every month.”
In a rescue mission last week, nine children aged between two and nine were rescued by Filipino authorities. It followed a referral by police in Canada after a Canadian man was found paying a woman in the south-east Asian country to exploit the children.
The woman was caught while offering to perform sexual acts on her eight-year-old daughter for the pedophile. She is also alleged to have offered to perform acts on a three-month-old child. The baby, however, was not found during the rescue operation.
The suspect, who is not believed to have been poor, is also alleged to have offered to abuse children of any age and do so until they cried in pain.
“International Justice Mission and Filipino police are urgently working with global police and intelligence sources from countries like the UK, US and Canada to help identify victims being abused and then rescue them,” Westlake said, according to The Independent.
“We urgently need more people to join us in the fight to stop traffickers from stealing the childhoods and innocence of Filipino children in this brutal way.”
Following the arrest of the suspect in the latest rescue, Philippines Police Superintendent Maria Sheila T Portento, from the Women and Children Protection Center (WCPC), said: “This operation is the clear message that WCPC wants to send to every facilitator/perpetrator of this crime. We mean business … that is, [we will] put you behind bars and make you accountable for every act of exploitation you commit and every dream of children you destroyed.”