Webcam child sex tourism is relatively new phenomenon in the depraved world of paedophilia and child abuse that exists as a nasty, but ever-present, undercurrent in today’s society.
The internet has an increasingly growing, worldwide reach. The demand for it, in conjunction with the low-cost at which it can now be provided, means that it is reaching further and further into the developing and third-world.
This is opening up wonderful opportunities for education, business and aid, but it also serves to deepen the increasingly grave epidemic of online paedophilia.
The UN and FBI estimate that there are around 750,000 paedophiles online at any one time who use webcams and chat rooms to “virtually rape” children. They undress and perform sexual acts in front of webcams and ask children to do the same, often paying for such demands with untraceable, pre-paid credit cards.
Terre de Hommes (TdH) is an international charitable, humanitarian federation that works for the rights of children and their equitable development. It has been an essential part of the fight against webcam child sex tourism. Primarily, they recognized the huge scale of the issue at hand. With around 750,000 paedophiles online at any one time, TdH estimates that tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of children, some as young as 6 years old, are abused behind cameras.
Importantly, they also saw that both the supply and the demand side of this problem needed to be combatted. Victims of such abuse can suffer anxiety, depression and aggression, according to Hans Gujit of TdH, and “have no idea about normal relationships…or sexuality”. Their exploitation, and the consequent damage caused, needs to be addressed. However, with the rapid growth of webcam sex tourism, TdH turned to ingenious, innovative and effective technology to help fight the demand side of the issue.
Using a computer model put together piece by piece, and made even more realistic with human movements, “Sweetie” was born. To see her over a webcam is to see a 10-year-old Filipino girl who moves, nods, looks round to check if anyone is coming. For all intents and purposes she is just another innocent victim of this epidemic living in the Philippines. In reality, she is operated out of a warehouse in Amsterdam by TdH employees.
The moment Sweetie appears online in public chat rooms and identifies herself as a 10-year old Filipino girl, she is inundated by requests to chat, to turn on her webcam, to touch herself. She is asked, amongst many other far more graphic and abusive requests, “Do you like to wear your bra?” “Hi hunny, can we talk?”. Hundreds of conversations are started with her and, what TdH have noted is that many are men from rich countries who, even when reminded that Sweetie is 10 years old, proceed to pay to abuse her via webcam before going offline and carrying on with their day.
TdH then use the opportunity that Sweetie’s online presence provides to track these paedophiles. Using information these men give, Google, Facebook and other sources, and without hacking their computer in any way TdH collate their names, addresses, phone numbers, pictures and video footage and make individual dossiers of each man. These are then handed over to Interpol.
In just 2 months, TdH identified 1,000 online predators whose details were all handed over to law-enforcement agencies. The UN has ensured that webcam sex tourism is a crime almost everywhere and Marta Santos Pais the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children said recently that, “There is absolutely a prohibition in international law and penalties will be very serious”.
TdH are leading the fight against webcam sex tourism and their painstaking efforts are bringing rewards. This epidemic is still growing rapidly though, especially with the constant expansion of the internet, and what is needed is for police forces to take on TdH’s role.
TdH tracked 1,000 paedophiles 2 months. Police forces, with their much larger resources, could trace more than 100,000 a year.