Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC): The Need for Prudent Use of Social Media and Concerted Government Measures

Jakarta, 15 December 2015—Children as victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) is growing as the demand for child sex escalates. UNICEF and UNFPA estimate that 2 million children are exploited in prostitution and pornography every year. Many children rescued from red light districts were reportedly infected with HIV/AIDS and therefore could not reintegrate into their family and community. To address these horrific findings, ECPAT Indonesia hosted from 14 to 15 December the “Southeast Asia Conference on the Protection and Rehabilitation of Victim of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children” at Pullman Hotel, Jakarta. The two-day conference presented a series of panel discussions, focusing on the victims, in particular on how to protect and rehabilitate them as well as to identify and prevent CSEC.

The first panel provided context and highlighted the importance of rehabilitation centers for CSEC victims. The Internet, with all its usefulness in promoting business and communication, is also utilized by perpetrators to exploit children anywhere around the globe. Mr. Andrew Perkins, a Liaison Officer of the Australian Federal Police, revealed that “more than 750,000 child sex predators are online at any one time.” The situation is more alarming as the perpetrator is often the victim’s family member or trusted person. The problem becomes more complicated when the victims themselves display their own sexuality on social media. The widespread use of social media exacerbates CSEC. “Sometimes, children are unaware that putting sexual images into their social media makes them potential victims of CSEC.” Ms. Sheila Varadan, Head of Legal Program at ECPAT International stated. She advocated for responsible and wise use of social media. More often than not, she cautioned, people are unaware that sharing may also mean promoting or campaigning. Related to this, Mr. Agung Yudhawiranata from Twitter Indonesia appealed to participants that “If you find CSEC images in social media, do not repost or share it with others. Instead, please inform the social media’s staff or report it directly to the law enforcement authority.”

The developing methods and the latest trends on CSEC call for immediate action to prevent its occurrence, protect potential victims and also to provide rehabilitation for the victims. Victim rehabilitation service providers should ensure the children’s safety and provide them with medical care, psychological assistance and recreational activities. Ms. Cristina Sevilla, attorney and CSEC expert at ECPAT Philippines, shared that the recently inked ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Person, Especially Women and Children (ACTIP), which is a legally binding document, regulates the protection and rehabilitation of child victims in Articles 14 and 15.

The conference also discussed practices and policies on CSEC victim rehabilitation in Indonesia, Cambodia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Thailand. Compared to the Philippines, Cambodia and Taiwan, Indonesia was found lacking in terms of cooperation among law enforcement institutions and between law enforcement and social welfare agency. “There is no national strategy to solve the problem of CSEC.” Mr. Amrullah of Plan International Indonesia lamented in explaining the lack of coordination. While several institutions have the mandate to promote the rights of the child in Indonesia, such as the Commission for Child Protection of Indonesia (KPAI) and the National Commission for Child Protection (Komnas PA), there is no clear legal and institutional framework for the protection and rehabilitation of CSEC victims. “When I ask who is responsible, no government institution could answer.” Mr. Amrullah added.

Prof. Irwanto, ECPAT Indonesia’s Board Member, outlined that regional autonomy in Indonesia causes difficulties in implementing the Law on the Protection of the Child. The national law must be implemented at regional level since the social welfare agencies are under the regional governments. Thus the implementation of the law by the regional governments should be monitored closely, he asserted. This is where community-based groups can take part in monitoring the regional government’s implementation of the national law as well as ensure that the social welfare agencies are providing good quality services.

The discussions during the conference highlighted the fact that the government of Indonesia still needs to improve its performance in preventing, protecting and providing rehabilitation for victims of CSEC, starting from harmonizing regulations at the central and regional levels, reconciling the different interpretations of the law among government institutions, and remedying the lack of awareness of CSEC. Ultimately, combating CSEC is not the responsibility of one party, everyone is responsible to protect children from CSEC and assist CSEC victims in the rehabilitation phase.