An international child-rights organization has renewed its call for a “concerted effort” to end the online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) and protect girls and young women from online gender-based violence amid the pandemic.
Plan International Philippines made the call on Friday, Feb. 26, as the month-long global celebration of this year’s Safer Internet Day draws to a close this February.
“As a crime thriving in the shadows, the online sexual abuse and exploitation of children becomes a secret pandemic that demands equal attention and treatment,” said Ana Maria Locsin, Plan International Philippines’ country director, in a statement.
“With the world embracing a new normal, there should be strengthened mandates, tools, and safeguards that ensure the protection of children from abusers, predators, and criminals lurking online,” she added.
On Safer Internet Day last Feb. 9, Plan International Philippines partnered with Twitter Asia Pacific to host a live Twitter conversation around keeping children safe on the internet.
During the conversation, the organization raised alarm over girls facing more threats and harassment online simply for being young and female.
“We also call on everyone to stand with girls and young women against online harassment. Advocate for gender-responsive ICT policies and help make the internet become more inclusive,” said Sheila Estabillo, Plan International Philippines’ Child Online Protection Specialist, in her tweet during the live discussion.
A recent research and campaign launched by Plan International, #FreeToBeOnline, revealed that 7 in 10 girls in the Philippines have experienced harassment on social media.
The organization noted that the study also shows that half of the girls surveyed globally face more harassment online than on the street, adding that most perpetrators hide from internet anonymity.
With this, the Plan International Philippines demanded that social media and tech companies, governments, civil society organizations, and internet users must take action to ensure a safer internet for all.
“This includes creating stronger protection mechanisms against online gender-based violence, holding online perpetrators accountable, and listening to and amplifying girls’ voices,” the organization said.