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Drive vs. child porn to hit Cebu

- Marigold Lebumfacil (The Philippine Star) - July 11, 2012 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - A Cebu-wide campaign against the rapidly increasing cases of cyber child pornography will be launched on Saturday.

The international children’s aid organization Terre des Hommes Netherlands and its non-government organization partners in Cebu working to uphold children’s welfare specifically the Children’s Legal Bureau (CLB), Fellowship for Organizing Endeavors, Inc. (FORGE) and Bidlisiw Foundation Inc., will launch the said public awareness campaign dubbed as “Sugbo! Lihok Batok Pornograpiya: Cebu-Wide Day against Child Pornography” at Parkmall.

The problem of cyber pornography has silently invaded a growing number of homes and communities because of the advent of affordable Internet facilities.

The campaign will kick off with a forum at 1 p.m. on Saturday. It is expected to gather local government officials, students, school officials, businessmen, civil society workers, and leaders of churches and faith-based groups.

Several children “rescued” from cyber sex den are also expected to take part. Organizers however deemed it best to protect their identities for their welfare.

The campaign is the local expression of Terre des Hommes’ project which is Redirect, the campaign which originally took off from the Netherlands aiming that for every donation received from the Dutch public against child porn, an arrow artwork is placed in strategic parts of the street until it forms a symbolic route redirecting the children from an area of prostitution and exploitation to a Terre des Hommes shelter for children.

The Netherland-based organization is passionately dedicated to stopping child exploitation in developing countries, taking a goal and result-oriented approach. It supports nearly three hundred projects, which are developed, established and implemented by local project partners. This means that the project can be geared closely to the practical requirements of the local population.

Telay Echano, Terre des Hommes’ country coordinator for the Philippines, says these arrows symbolize hope and protection for children mired in pornography.

“Children should grow with care and happiness and should be in school, not in places or situations which exploit them,” she said.

Cyber child pornography via the Internet is rampantly spreading in the country as an easy way out of poverty, says CLB executive director Joan Saniel during the 888 Forum yesterday at the Marco Polo Plaza.

Official figures of children victimized by cyber child porn are still lacking but trends show that more and more Filipino children are forced to perform sexual acts in front of the webcam as their clients who are usually Western pedophiles watch on the other end of the Internet.

“Cyber child porn has become more aggressive because easy access to Internet facilities has allowed everyone to ‘work’ at home,” Saniel said.

Intermediates of the pedophiles have targeted parents, who, because of the easy money, let their own children and children from their community perform sexual acts in front of the webcam.

Pamela Uy, Bidlisiw Deputy Executive Director, said these ‘shows’ in front of the webcam provide quick and easy money usually sent via international money transfer firms.

“Some parents or guardians think no abuse is committed against the children because there is no actual physical contact,” she said.

Terre des Hommes and its partners say the cities of Cebu, Lapulapu, Mandaue and Cebu Province are among the areas in the country where cyber child porn is rapidly spreading, where children as young as seven years old work daily ‘from home’, that is, posing nude and performing sexual acts in front of the webcam within their own home, earning as much as P300 per day.

“Most children rarely report their cases. Some are afraid while others, both children and their families, do not know that they are already being exploited,” says Jonna Bonilla, FORGE rescue project coordinator.

Terre des Hommes and its partners say fighting cyber child porn needs the support of parents, schools and the whole community.

“The psychological damage to children who are exploited in this way is very large. Children are traumatized severely. Parents are not aware of that. Educating communities is very important,” Echano said.

These organizations currently work closely with local communities to prevent occurrence of cyber child porn.

They also assist children in shelters where they get a chance to join vocational trainings while their parents receive small loans to set up simple businesses to meet their income needs.

They have also started working with selected schools in Cebu to promote personal safety lessons and warn children of the dangers of sexual exploitation.

Several members of the Cebu City Council and the Cebu Provincial Board have declared support for the campaign and committed to pass resolutions in support of the campaign.

The campaign for the next two weeks will visit selected schools and offices to encourage people to take part in fighting cyber child porn. It will culminate on August 1, where advocates will march on the streets and place ‘arrows of hope’ from Fuente Osmeña to Plaza Independencia as expression of support for the Cebu-wide Day to End Child Pornography. — (FREEMAN)

A CEBU BIDLISIW DEPUTY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR BIDLISIW FOUNDATION INC CAMPAIGN CEBU CEBU CITY COUNCIL AND THE CEBU PROVINCIAL BOARD CHILD CHILDREN CYBER HOMMES
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