terre des hommes

International

This is Siti

She is 10 years old and up till last year, she worked on a garbage dump in Jakarta, Indonesia. Every day, she looked for recyclable materials such as plastic bottles to make some money. Terre des Hommes is committed to stop this kind of child exploitation. Together with a local partner, Terre des Hommes helps children like Siti to go back to school. Young people are given the opportunity to follow vocational training which gives them a chance of a better future. Parents receive information about the importance of education. For Siti, the support of Terre des Hommes has helped out a lot: instead of working at a garbage dump, she’s now working on a promising future at school.

Sweetie

Webcam child sex tourism: time for action

Webcam child sex tourism is a relatively new phenomenon, which has children forced into sexual activities for money. As it is growing rapidly, Terre des Hommes issued an in-depth research on the extent, nature and consequences of this form of child exploitation. The results are shocking. It took Terre des Hommes only two months to identify thousands of perpetrators, all thanks to the fictitious, virtual child character ‘Sweetie’. The easiness with which these perpetrators are able to contact young, poor victims and get away with it makes for the stark growth of the phenomenon. Since 2007, only 6 perpetrators have been convicted. Terre des Hommes now calls upon the international community to protect the children involved, before webcam child sex tourism becomes a new industry. 

“I feel so dirty. It is a burden I carry with me.” - Danilo (18)


More information?
View the video about the investigation with Sweetie, a.o.
Read frequently asked questions about webcam child sex tourism and the investigation
Download the (English) report on the harmful effects of webcam child sex tourism

Perpetrators operate in freely accessible chat programs
Webcam child sex tourism involves tens of thousands of children in The Philippines alone. Terre des Hommes is deeply worried about this development, which primarily seems to take place in Southeast Asia. Researchers discovered how adult men are able to seek contact with a poor Filipino child for instance, that will perform sexual activities on request of the viewer. The man on the other side of the screen will pay – or not – and leave the child to the next customer. In two months time more than a thousand perpetrators were identified who contacted children online for sex.
The research team was helped by a fictitious, virtual 10-year old called Sweetie. As soon as this girl showed her virtual face in freely accessible chat programs, numerous adult men would contact her with requests for online sex. These chat rooms are accessible for everyone, yet they are under strict supervision by a monitor. There was not much monitoring done however, and in reality the monitor himself would sometimes be involved in the sexual abuse too. Sweetie would never let herself be abused however. There was a way out for her. Not for thousands of extremely poor children however; for them this is the harsh reality of supply and demand.



Impression of one of the online chats


Supply and demand
The rich westerner usually defines ‘the market’. Money is scarce in many developing countries and practically every request by webcam will be conceded, however perverse. The growing popularity of the Internet and mobile telephony in developing countries makes it possible to meet the rise in demand. Poverty is the main reason why these children are being molested online. Gambling and substance abuse, which happens often in the Philippines, causes this situation to sustain. The investigation further shows that victims of webcam child sex tourism are also physically abused as they work the streets earning money for their families. In rural regions, parents are lending money against rocketing interest percentages to buy laptop computers for webcam shows in which their children are involved – quite often at a very young age. The parents fool themselves by thinking that webcam child sex tourism will not be as harmful as physical sex. In some cases, children operate on their own from internet bars. There are also more organised forms of webcam child sex tourism with pimps hustling children, teaching them sex tricks and putting them behind camera in isolated rooms in so called dens. Local officers profit from the financial success of the phenomenon, too. Although these children will do everything in their power to save themselves from this unimaginable situation, they of course are the ultimate losers.

Victims physically and mentally branded
Quite often, webcam child sex tourism leads to physical sex as well: “He came to Cebu and we met in a mall. He bought me stuff, like a cell phone. He brought me to a hotel. I was a bit embarrassed or shy, because he’s a big man and I’m too small for him.” - Potot (15)

Research by Terre des Hommes shows victims of webcam child sex tourism being physically and mentally branded. The children are left with physical wounds after their webcam shows are over, having been forced to use sexual devices for which they are too young physically. Furthermore, they develop a low self-esteem, posttraumatic stress syndrome and uncontrollable feelings of guilt, shame and disgrace. Most children feel obliged to webcam child sex tourism in order to help their family members financially. Parents are unemployed, often addicted and always at the end of their resources. The emotional effects these shows have on the children will often translate into various behavioural disorders, self-destructive and promiscuous activities, depressions and quitting school prematurely. The children then become even more prone to new forms of exploitation. The vicious circle seems irreversible. Especially since perpetrators continue to get away.

Strictly prohibited, yet unpunished
Webcam child sex tourism is strictly prohibited by international law. National law in many countries prohibits webcam child sex tourism directly or indirectly as a form of child pornography and/or child prostitution. These laws are rarely complied with, however. The children involved hardly ever press charges and nor do their parents. Collecting evidence is a huge challenge. The shows are broadcast live and leave no traces behind on the computer. Since 2007, only 6 perpetrators have been convicted. In contrast: roughly 750,000 adults are estimated to look for webcam sex with children daily. This calls for immediate action in order to prevent webcam child sex tourism from becoming a new industry and have more children victimized.


Now is the time for action

Terre des Hommes is greatly worried about the rapid emergence of webcam child sex tourism. As the worldwide demand for webcam sex shows with children is growing and the Internet is becoming more and more accessible and affordable, immediate action must be taken. If researchers by Terre des Hommes are able to identify over one thousand perpetrators in only two months’ time, the international investigating authorities should be able to trace even more. Besides prevention activities and direct help to the victims, Terre des Hommes calls upon the international community to take responsibility and protect children against webcam child sex tourism. In order to put our message on the political agenda, we aim for 1 million signatures.

Help us put webcam child sex tourism to a stop and sign the petition. Donations enable us to continue our work and are greatly appreciated.

 

More information?
View the video about the investigation with Sweetie, a.o.
Read frequently asked questions about webcam child sex tourism and the investigation
Download the (English) report on the harmful effects of webcam child sex tourism

Please note that Terre des Hommes has handed over all acquired information in this investigation immediately to the authorities concerned.

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