11/11/2004, 00.00
PHILIPPINES

Family and friends push children into prostitution

Report denounces child prostitution: 60,000, perhaps 100,000 children involved.

Manila (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Child prostitution involves family and close friends. This is one of the shocking findings of a report released by 'End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes' (ECPAT).

The advocacy group's findings are based on the detailed study of 74 cases of former and active child prostitutes across the country, but its estimates indicate that in 1990s there were about 60,000 child prostitutes. Official estimates put the figure at about 40,000, but some activists believe it may be as high as 100,000.

According to the report, recruiters often justify getting children into the sex trade by saying that they are "helping" them and their families. For Anjanette Saguisag, ECPAT co-ordinator, recruiters can "be immediate family members [or] people known to family and friends". Recruiters' commission can range from 500 pesos (US$ 69) to 4,000 pesos per child (US$ 550).

"There are indications that they [recruiters] feel guilt but they often justify it by saying they are helping the family [and] helping alleviate poverty in the community," she said.

Most recruiters initially tell the children that they would be getting jobs as domestic helpers, factory workers or entertainers, but later press them into prostitution.

The report also found Filipino children being trafficked to nearby Malaysia and Japan. It said that the most frequent foreign users of child prostitutes were Japanese, Chinese, South Koreans and "Americans". However, it pointed out that for many girls all Caucasians are American.

Preventing child prostitution is hindered by a code of silence that rules the sex trade and by ineffective law enforcement. Senior Superintendent Yolanda Tanigue, head of a special Filipino police unit, agrees. "The fight against child prostitution is hampered by the victims' reluctance to testify and the inexperience of prosecutors," she said.

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