07/10/2023, 13.53
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G20 Interfaith Forum focused on fighting child pornography

by Santosh Digal

Religious groups, government officials and NGOs met in Manila, Philippines on 7 July, to formulate new strategies to fight online child sexual exploitation, and appeal to the heads of state or government meeting in New Delhi in September.

Manila (AsiaNews) – The Regional G20 Interfaith (IF20) Meeting was held in the Philippines with over 80 delegates from government, religious communities, and private sector to discuss new strategies to prevent online sexual exploitation of children, youth and women.

The forum is the main interfaith body to promote global cooperation and action on significant international issues.

At the Manila meeting, participants issued an appeal ahead of the G20 summit of heads of state and government scheduled next September in New Delhi, calling for stronger institutions to fight child pornography and online sexual exploitation of women and children.

Since India will chair the G20 summit, the chosen theme for the forum was “One Earth, One Family, One Future", based on the Hindu tradition in the Maha Upanishad: "The world is a family”.

The Philippine meeting is the ninth IF20, after the first meeting in Australia in 2014,  organised by the G20 Interfaith Forum, the Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities, the International Justice Mission (IJM) Philippines, and Religions for Peace (RfP) Philippines.

Sister Evelyn Jose, a member of the congregation of the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit and coordinator of Talitha Kum Philippines, addressed the meeting, explaining the latter’s work at the national, regional and continental levels, its active support for victims, survivors and people at risk of human trafficking, including for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

She highlighted the need to boost prevention and awareness programmes in collaboration with public schools so more children and youth do not get caught up in this traffic.

In regions like Southeast Asia, families are often forced by debt to have their children perform sex acts for money, or sell them.

According to a 2020 report by International Justice Mission, a US-based NGO that fights trafficking and sexual exploitation, the Philippines ranks first in the world for online child pornographic content.

According to the NGO’s study, endemic poverty in the Philippines is contributing to a rise in this kind of abuse. Some 20 million Filipinos out of 115 million live below the poverty line.

A UNICEF report released in 2022 estimates that two million Philippine children were victims of online sexual abuse and exploitation last year.

Compared to other countries in the region, easy and affordable Internet access, strong money transfer infrastructure, and extensive English language fluency have sadly made the Philippines a hub in child sex trafficking.

In the meantime, Sister Evelyn noted that networking at venues like the IF20 and by Catholic and Protestant groups in the Philippines, as well as working with government agencies, NGOs and other groups can curb violence against minors, starting with online sexual exploitation.

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