The sex trafficking and abuse of children is a growing problem regionally fueled by the $32 billion internet porn industry. As I’ve written earlier, UNICEF estimates that every year 1.2 million children are trafficked for sex, adding to the millions more already in captivity.
Trafficking of children is highly lucrative and while profits are high, penalties are low in most Asian countries. Internet porn isn’t the only outlet; growing sex tourism in Asia hasn’t helped. Child victims usually come from small villages, where awareness is lowest and poverty worst.
Southeast Asian countries are source, transit and destination countries for child-sex traffickers and pedophiles. There is clear need for better education and awareness regarding the dangers children face.
While, there are some excellent programs for Child Protection developed by local and international groups in Asia, for budgetary reasons these usually do not include smaller villages and often even slum communities where children are most at risk.
It is here that awareness is lowest and families are often groomed to part with their children, supposedly to good jobs in the cities.
Parents, often faced with terrible decisions around paying medical and food bills, will separate from a child thinking they will be looked after by the kindly “auntie” or “uncle” who has promised the family financial support in return.
In rural and some slum communities, families, authorities, teachers and even small NGOs are neither aware of the problem nor able to prevent it.
Stairway Foundation recognized years ago that in the Philippines, a favorite child-sex tourism destination, the 1.5 million street children and many millions more living in urban slums were easy targets.
In response, SF has developed three purpose-made animated films on incest, pedophilia and child-trafficking that have helped hundreds of organizations warn communities there. But the message needs to spread widely in Asia and parents need to see alternatives.
Hong Kong-based ADM Capital Foundation is helping SF develop the animation materials and accompanying training into a regional strategy under the title, Break the Silence. We believe that not only will BTS be complimentary to child protection programs already in place, but could be used in Western countries to educate young people about internet child pornography.
Ultimately, the goal is to build an effective awareness and protection program through local organizations that are able to offer a first line of support to children at risk of trafficking and abuse.
The program is designed to grow into a sustainable initiative driven by SF in co-operation with regional partners, sharing its approach toward reaching out to and effectively protecting marginalized children across Asia.
Have you seen any particularly innovative child protection work in Asia or beyond? We are keen to learn of others working effectively in this arena.