A new form of human trafficking that sees children forced to carry out sex acts while being live-streamed for paedophiles to watch online is growing at an “alarming rate”, a charity has warned.
Known as “cybersex trafficking”, the dark crime has become rampant in the Philippines, where police are receiving thousands of referrals every month and nearly 100 children have been rescued in the past year alone. Demand largely comes from Western paedophiles in places including the UK, Canada and the US.
It sees youngsters, usually under the age of 12, forced to perform sex acts on themselves or each other, molested by an adult, or abused in other degrading ways. The youngest victim reported was a two-month-old baby.
In a rescue mission last week, nine child victims aged between two and nine years old were rescued by Filipino authorities. It followed a referral from police in Canada after they discovered a Canadian man was paying a woman in the Philippines to view live-streamed sexual abuse of young children.
The arrested suspect allegedly produced and sent sexually explicit images of very young children via social media to paedophiles overseas in exchange for money.
She allegedly described sex acts that she would force the victims to do on themselves and on other children for the foreign customer watching online from abroad.
The suspect is also alleged to have told her online customers that she could sexually abuse children of any age and that the children could do whatever sex act the customer wanted until the children cried in pain.
She even allegedly offered to sexually abuse a three month old baby in exchange for money but the baby was not found during the operation.
During the rescue mission, the suspect was caught by police in the act of offering to perform sex acts on her own eight-year-old daughter and “live-stream” those sex acts from her home.
The suspect was not poor, and had allegedly demanded thousands of pesos for every child sexual abuse show and had been doing this for several years. She lived in a four-room house with a large LED flat screen TV, two laptops, a tablet and an entertainment centre.
The International Justice Mission (IJM), a global organisation that protects poor communities from violence by partnering with local authorities, and helped facilitate the latest rescue of Filipino cybersex victims, has warned that the “disturbing” crime is fast-growing.
David Westlake, chief executive of the organisation’s UK branch, said: “Cybersex trafficking of children is a deeply disturbing global problem. Demand largely comes from Western paedophiles in places including the UK, Canada and the US.
“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.
"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.
“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, put you behind bars and make you accountable for every act of exploitation you commit and every dream of children you destroyed.”