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UN expert: Child trafficking in PHL ‘underreported’

by Malou Talosig-Bartolome

IT appears that there is little data on the actual selling of Filipino children for sexual exploitation.

United Nations special rapporteur and child rights advocate Mama Fatima Singhateh said she noticed this during her 11-day visit to the Philippines recently.

“There is lack of or limited information on the scale of the incidences of child trafficking and how child victims are exploited,” Singhateh said in a statement.

UN Special Rapporteur Mama Fatima Singhateh visited Valenzuela City, recognized by Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children  as world’s first Pathfinding City on prevention and protection of all forms of violence against children

3M cases of PHL kids online sex abuse in 2021

The Philippine government had earlier acknowledged that the country is the top source of online sexual abuse or exploitation of children (OSAEC) worldwide. The United States alone referred more than 3 million cases of Filipino children being monitored in the dark web in 2021.

Republicasia reported the worsening OSAEC cases and how social media abetted the spiraling number during the pandemic.

Justice Secretary Jesus Remulla said President Marcos was alarmed at the sheer number of child victims that he ordered an all-out war against OSAEC last August .

Look at actual trafficking data, too

The Ghambian lawyer said aside from OSAEC, the Philippines remains a source and destination country for child trafficking, sale, sexual exploitation and forced labor.

“It appears that a small number of cases of sale and sexual exploitation are reported, which is suggestive of underreporting and under-identification of victims,” the UN special rapporteur on sale and exploitation of children said.

Legislation gap

One possible explanation for the underreporting of Filipino children being sold for sexual exploitation could be a gap in legislation.

“The definition and distinction under the anti-trafficking provisions are inadequate specifically on sale of children, including for the use of a child in sexual activities for remuneration or other form of consideration,” she explained.

Under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on Rights of Children on the sale of children, there should be a distinction between the sale of children and child trafficking. The Philippines, she said, ratified the optional protocol.

She also observed another gap in legislation is on penalizing sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism.

“Officials in this sector do not appear to have adequate information on the issues, scope and manifestations of sexual exploitation in the context of travel and tourism,” Singhateh added.

Local government units, who are in the forefront of tourism, needs “extensive training and sensitization” on this issue.

Good job, but…

She recognized also the headways made by the Philippine government and civil society in addressing the scourge of the sale and sexual exploitation of children.

She cited the operation of a center which provides one-stop medical, psychiatric and social welfare services, but highlighted the need for more action.

But still, there are a lot of things to be done.

“The Philippines must set up a robust system for detection of crimes, complaint handling and enhancing capacities of officials and social workers involved in child protection, to provide meaningful support and rehabilitation to victims and survivors,” she added. 

Banner photo c/o UNICEF/Josh Estey



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