Study: Pandemic Fueled Alarming Rise in Child Sexual Abuse in the Philippines

The BBC on Monday cited a recent study about child abuse surging in the Philippines during the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic as disturbing evidence of a problem that may have metastasized around the world.

The study was prepared by Save the Children and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). UNICEF has previously reported on the “high prevalence of physical, psychological, sexual, and online violence committed on Filipino children.”

The trend appears to have grown steadily worse over the past decade and took an especially alarming turn during the pandemic. UNICEF noted the age of consent in the Philippines is only 12, one of the lowest in the world, and parts of the Philippines have experienced natural disasters and bouts of armed conflict that make children “more vulnerable to violence, trafficking, and stress.”

In July 2021, UNICEF said the Philippines “has emerged as the center of child sex abuse materials production in the world, with 80% of Filipino children vulnerable to online sexual abuse, some facilitated even by their own parents.”

In addition to the above-mentioned low age of consent — or, as the July 2021 report more broadly described it, the “absence of perceived conflict between sexual exploitation and significant social norms” — the Philippines also features low levels of computer literacy, easy access to Internet technology, and “well-established financial transaction facilities” to handle the commercial end of child sexual exploitation.

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