Addressing the underlying causes of online abuse is key to prevention
UNICEF commends the Philippine Government for signing the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act 11930 or the Anti-Online Sexual Abuse or Exploitation of Children and Anti-Child Sexual Abuse or Exploitation Materials Act, as incidents of online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC) continue to increase. This marks an important step in helping implement a law that will allow children to be safer online.
According to the 2022 Disrupting Harm Study conducted by UNICEF, ECPAT International, and Interpol, 20% of Internet-using Filipino children aged 12-17 were subjected to OSAEC. This represents an estimated 2 million children who have been victimized. Additionally, 23-38% of children who are victims do not tell anyone of the harm they experienced, while a very low 0-3% report to the police or to a helpline.
UNICEF supported the development of the law and formulation of the IRR including a series of consultations, including those with children.
“Consulting children in the formulation of the implementing rules and regulations for the law underscores progress, which we hope would continue to be the norm for all policies and legislations that affect children. Indeed, ‘nothing for them, without them.’ Children must be viewed as our partners towards social development,” UNICEF Philippines Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov says.
Prior to the enactment of RA 11930, the government has been addressing OSAEC through the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking and the Inter-Agency Council Against Child Pornography where they worked with key stakeholders in conducting several advocacy campaigns, capacity building activities for justice actors and service providers, and supported the victims of OSAEC, among others.
While there were several notable achievements including the retention of the Philippines in Tier 1 category in the Global Trafficking in Persons Report in 2022, there are still gaps and challenges in the implementation of the law which called for the enactment of RA 11930.
The IRR clearly articulates the actions to be undertaken by the government to address the underlying causes of OSAEC in the country including poverty, social norms, and limited capacity of service providers to handle OSAEC cases.
The IRR requires relevant government agencies to develop and implement a social behavior change (SBC) program that will address norms including low reporting according to the findings of the disrupting harm study. This focus on SBC is an innovative approach to addressing various norms that contribute to the increase in OSAEC in the country.
Other notable provisions in the IRR, which are critical in implementing a whole of society approach in preventing OSAEC and providing the continuum of care for the children victims of OSAEC, include the following:
• development of plans and guidelines that are gender responsive, disability inclusive, and culturally sensitive;
• enhanced role of the internet intermediaries; a child-centric referral pathway with feedback mechanisms;
• harmonization and standardization of databases, and blacklisting of aliens, mandating local government units to enact local ordinances on OSAEC, among others.
Parents, caregivers, and community members equally play a big role in preventing and protecting children. The law mandates the government to help parents by increasing their knowledge on child online safety, and report incidents of OSAEC to authorities.
UNICEF supports the government in the implementation of the law and adopt for optimal implementation the multi-year gender responsive, disability-inclusive, strategic action plan, including the social behavior change toolkits that will address social norms that drive online violence.
UNICEF with government and its partners will also be supporting the strengthening of the child protection system that prevents and addresses violence in all settings. All of these will contribute to the enhancement of the child protection system that provides effective preventive and efficient and timely response mechanisms to address OSAEC in the country.