End Sexual Exploitation of Children Online

End Sexual Exploitation of Children Online

In Partnership with the UK Government

The inception of Internet facilities connecting people across the globe at the click of a key comes with considerable adverse consequences. Hence, misuse of Internet services by Generation Y is prevalent. Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (OCSEA) is a modern enormity, where vulnerable children are likely to be prime targets of heinous criminals. In a country as small as Sri Lanka, evidence shows the number of reported cases of OCSEA is at a comparatively exponential rise and is booming into a full grown industry endangering the lives of unwitting children.

The situation in Sri Lanka has become objectionable for vulnerable children and survivors as a result of the social stigma that stems from cultural and social norms. A multifaceted approach is required to address the current discourse on OCSEA. With much reflection PEaCE has launched a two-year project with the UK Government as the benefactors. The project aims to End Sexual Exploitation of Children Online (ESECO).

This project is currently underway and considers children as their fundamental beneficiaries; as well as other stakeholders partaking in the protection of children such as parents, teachers, principals, child protection and law enforcement officials, youth and the general community. As a result of the current situation it is vital that every individual is aware and well-informed of the consequences of OCSEA. Hence, we at PEaCE raise awareness using various methods such as, seminars, workshops, training programs, capacity building programs, pocket meetings and also provide legal aid, and counseling for children and all other stakeholders involved in the protection of children.

The project intends to cover all 25 districts of Sri Lanka building on 4 distinct levels:

The Individual Level – will focus on the child or any individual that has a direct link to children. It will target children, parents, youth, survivors and other stake holders (who have direct contact with children in their daily lives) who will be made aware of and trained at a personal level.

The Societal Level – will focus on the community and other parties that can potentially protect children from harm; it will target school teachers, principals, child protection institutions, law enforcement officers and other NGOs. The training aims not only at creating awareness on protecting children from cyber- crimes but also to identify, cope with and report such situations.

The Industry Level – This involves engagement with the corporate sector, particularly the ICT industry. Implementation of a Code of Conduct and securing their commitment to be members and supporters of the GSMA Mobile Alliance against Child Sexual Abuse. It will also involve introduction of a specific policy against Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and development of guidelines towards media reporting.

The Policy or Systemic Level – This level will have strong evidence-based research for systematic intervention at the policy level, discussion forums with bodies and persons related to law, justice and cyber security to bring about appropriate laws within Sri Lanka and work to ensure effective law enforcement and justice with regards to related cases.

Keeping the protection of children at the core of the project, there are six outcomes that we envision:

  1. Children and young people are informed and empowered to protect themselves against OCSEA.
  2. There will be improved coordination and implementation of efforts of multiple authorities and law enforcement agencies to ensure that young people who are survivors of OCSEA have protection and access to services that support them through the investigation and recovery phase.
  3. Enhanced knowledge and skills of multiple levels of stakeholders (at divisional, districts and national levels), of the manifestations and the acute dangers children are exposed to online.
  4. A commitment is generated across the industry and through ICT service providers and media houses to block and remove content and proactively address OCSEA issues.
  5. A comprehensive Legal and Policy Gap Analysis with recommendations is developed as an evidence base for advocating legal and policy changes for the protection of children online.
  6. A multi-stakeholder taskforce is reactivated to advocate for a National Action Plan for Child Sexual Exploitation & Abuse Online.

The project will be implemented across all 25 districts. It will develop tool-kits for awareness and training programs and research studies to influence the judiciary and law enforcement agencies.

The project will be closely involved with government institutions dealing with children (such as the Department of Probation and Child Care Services, the NCPA, the Children and Women’s Bureau of the Police, the Ministry of Education etc.) Non-state factors such as the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, International and Local NGO’s, the ICT sector including Mobile Service Providers, Cyber Security agencies such as – Sri Lanka CERT, and IT/ICT Educational Institutions like SLIIT.

The Project may facilitate the Ministry of Education in developing a school curriculum on Online Safety for Children. Also will facilitate to create a Code of Conduct for the service providers in the ICT industry, media personal for ethical reporting, advocate strengthening the laws and their implementation. It will work with INTERPOL to conduct training for the police, NCPA officials and selected government and non-governmental officials.

The project will be implemented through awareness raising programs, campaigns, workshops, trainings, meetings and consultations, debates and competitions for youth and students, research, advocacy and many other related activities.