At the forum held in Manila, Philippines on 7 July, religious communities, governments and NGOs developed new strategies to combat and prevent the sexual exploitation of children on the Internet. An appeal to the heads of state and government who will meet in September in New Delhi.
Manila () – The 9th G20 Interfaith Forum (IF20) was held in the Philippines, where more than 80 government delegates, representatives of religious communities and secular associations met to discuss new prevention strategies against the sexual exploitation of minors, young people and women on the Internet.
The G20 summit is the main forum for promoting global cooperation and intervening on all significant international issues. From Manila and with a view to the summit of Heads of State and Government that will take place in New Delhi in September, the world of religions called for this body to also play a key role in the formation and strengthening of institutions that combat child pornography and the sexual exploitation of women and children on the Internet. The opportunity to work on this front derives from the theme chosen for its mandate by India, the country that is chairing the G20 this year: “One Earth, one family, one future.” The concept takes up a Hindu teaching that appears in the Maha Upanisad: “The world is a single family.”
The one in the Philippines is the ninth meeting of the IF20, the first having been held in Australia in 2014, and was organized by the G20 Interfaith Forum, the Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities, the International Justice Mission (IJM) of the Philippines and Religions for Peace (RfP) of the Philippines.
One of the speakers at the Manila meeting was Sister Evelyn Jose, religious of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit and coordinator of Talitha Kum Philippines, an organization that promotes collaboration between networks organized at the national, regional and continental levels. who actively support victims, survivors, and people at risk of human trafficking, including sexual exploitation. “It is necessary to strengthen prevention and awareness programs in collaboration with public schools so that more children and young people are aware of the existence of the problem, its risks and how to avoid ending up in these networks. In regions such as Southeast Asia, often the debts force families to exploit children to perform sexual acts on the Internet for money, or even sell them for money,” said Sr. Evelyn.
According to a 2020 analysis by the International Justice Mission, a US-based non-governmental organization (NGO) that fights trafficking and sexual exploitation, the Philippines ranks first in the world for online child pornography content. According to the NGO’s study, endemic poverty in the Philippines, where 20 of its 115 million inhabitants live below the poverty line, is contributing to the increase in abuse. For its part, a UNICEF report published in 2022 estimates that 2 million Filipino children were victims of abuse and sexual exploitation online last year.
The ease and low prices -compared to other countries in the region- with which Internet is accessed in the Philippines, as well as the extensive banking infrastructure for the digital transfer of money and the wide command of the English language, sadly make the country a epicenter of child sex trafficking.
Meanwhile, the wish expressed by the hna. Evelyn at IF20 is that, thanks to the collaboration of the “network of networks” of the G20 Interfaith Forum and the action of the Catholic and Protestant communities of the Philippines, collaboration with local government agencies, NGOs and other entities of the area to curb all forms of violence against minors, starting with sexual exploitation on the Internet.