As the world observes the International Working Women’s Day, the Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns expresses alarm over the heightened vulnerability of Filipino children to sexual abuse and exploitation as the country plunges deeper into crisis brought by the pandemic and its socio-economic impact.
While recent data presented by the government showed a decline in number of reported cases of violence against women and children, it does not present a clear picture of reality.
The data cannot deny the fact that many women and children are locked up in an abusive home environment together with their abusers and are likely to be exposed to domestic violence especially that many families struggle to cope with financial stress. At the same time, the mobility restriction has consequently hindered women and children victims in accessing the justice system.
The failure of the Duterte government in addressing massive unemployment and inflation that exacerbate the country’s poverty and hunger rates has forced many children and their families to find other ways in order to make ends meet. Unfortunately, some of them engage in obnoxious and illicit trades such as in the case of children selling their nude photos or videos online in exchange for money.
Even before the pandemic, the Philippines has already been considered as a global source of child sexual abuse and exploitation materials. So it is appalling that the government has done very little to prevent and combat online sexual abuse and exploitation.
Worse, the government even failed to consider the concerns of Filipino children in its COVID-19 response. In fact, the government’s COVID-19 cash aid has not been fully distributed among the poorest of the poor while its program on education has been marred with irregularities.
The government’s indifference to the welfare of the Filipino children puts them at greater vulnerability to all forms of abuse, violence and exploitation. Despite decades of persistent campaigns of victims and advocates, there’s still a need to establish and develop a comprehensive and coordinated national response to make the digital space safe for children.
Combating this crime requires an all-round approach that includes not only law enforcement, but also legislation, programs and policies, coordination of necessary services to children victims and cooperation with the public, media and even internet service providers.
More importantly, Salinlahi calls on the government to focus on meeting the basic needs of children of marginalized families. The Duterte administration must ensure that children are safe not only from COVID-19 but also from sexual abuse and exploitation.
As an alliance of child focused institutions, Salinlahi reiterates its commitment in upholding and defending the rights and welfare of Filipino children through its active participation in campaigns and advocacies in order to end all forms of abuse, violence and exploitation of children. ###