International Justice Mission (IJM), the world’s largest international anti-slavery organization, announced a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP Office) to protect children in the Philippines. The grant follows the U.S.-Philippines Child Protection Compact (CPC) Partnership signed in Manila earlier this year to strengthen the capacity of the Philippine government towards the prosecution, prevention and protection against crimes of online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) and the prevention and protection against crimes of child labor trafficking (CLT) in country.
With increased resources, IJM will expand the scope of its project partnering with Philippines authorities to intervene in cases of OSEC. IJM will also bring on World Vision to carry out activities focusing on prevention and local-level response systems for both OSEC and CLT.
Since IJM began work in the Philippines in the early 2000s to combat commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), the government has made significant strides to stop traffickers from exploiting children in the commercial sex trade. After years of sustained engagement with the Philippine government and work with local authorities to protect children and stop traffickers, studies have shown that prevalence of children in the commercial sex establishments plummeted between 75% and 86% in our areas of operation. IJM helped rescue over 1,450 victims and convicted over 175 traffickers.
In 2016, IJM shifted gears to help lead the battle against OSEC, the live sexual abuse of children streamed via the internet, set up by adults who receive online payments from predators and pedophiles located anywhere in the world. This devastating form of modern slavery, also referred to as cybersex trafficking, is gaining ground in the Philippines, a cybersex trafficking hotspot due to the increasing availability of broadband internet, decreasing cost of set-up, and demand for live-streaming abuse of children by foreign customers.
“This grant is a game changer and first-of-its-kind. It will expand IJM’s work in the Philippines by allowing us to work nationwide and launch new, crucial aftercare initiatives such as training other expert agencies to develop foster care programming and kinship care for OSEC survivors who don’t have safe homes to return to,” said Sam Inocencio, IJM Philippines National Director. “IJM is grateful for the Department of State’s TIP Office for recognizing the significant need to address this crime and providing the resources to continue making an impact.”
Many of the child abusers paying for the abuse are located in Western countries. In 2015, the Philippines reported receiving over 2,000 referrals from the U.S. alone. Just last month, two American men were convicted in the U.S. for sexually exploiting children in the Philippines via the internet; in one case, three children traveled to California to testify at the trial. This truly is a borderless crime, requiring cooperation between international law enforcement agencies and organizations committed to protecting children.
IJM’s global experience over the past 20 years has demonstrated that justice for the poor and oppressed is possible, when laws are routinely and effectively enforced. The grant will allow millions more people to be protected, the continued strengthening of community level response and prevention mechanisms as well as expanding services for survivors.