Online sexual exploitation of children increased during the pandemic.

In a recent statement by the Washington based International Justice Mission it described sexual exploitation of children as “a crime of opportunity” Today with Covid 19 lockdown in place, hundreds of thousands of children are confined to their homes and online study is their only link to education.  But it also exposes them to online sex predators who offer them easy money, drawing them into a downward spiral of pornographic exposure.

In an August, 17th article on the Kenyan ‘Daily Nation’ page 13, it says “The dangers that abound on the internet are many and children are especially vulnerable.  Each time a child logs on, he or she opens a doorway for adults that prey on children, paedophiles that prowl in the web, in search of children to groom, not to mention the tons of adult content out there, which often makes its way to channels that market themselves as child-friendly”

Children have very photographic minds and it is easy to see how easily such images become engraved on their minds.  Children are also very curious so they will return again to view such images and may quickly bond with them.  How many parents, especially here in Africa are able to track what ‘lessons’ their children have viewed on a particular day?  For some of them it may be a very real ‘eye opener’ to what their children have mastered to access.   It might even come as a shock to many parents – then the article goes on to cite the case of Mama ‘Joel’ when her 10 year old son told her that he had been getting ”bad” messages every time he turned on his tablet.  She switched on his device, only for a message with a profile picture of a half-naked white woman to pop up accompanied by a message, “Hi darling, want to be friends?” (Suppose he was a teenager or a child who did not confide in a parent?)

Other Crises of COVID-19 Too
Currently in Kenya there is an explosion of teenage pregnancies and it is not surprising when desperate, single mothers encourage and sometimes force their young daughters to have sex with older men. This is done just to secure some basic food in the once-a-day-meal for the poorest of citizens in Nairobi slums.  The outcome for such children carries dire consequences into their teenage years.  For many of them education will be put on hold or terminated, which again diminishes their chances of independent living and life choices in the future.  This is not to focus also on their own lack of self-esteem and self-worth to evaporate quickly in a society where Gender Inequity and Poverty plays such a debilitating impact on their already much blighted young lives.

“Let the Children Come to Me” Luke 18:16
Did Jesus see they were being ignored or pushed aside?  We would say he had a ‘soft heart’ for children, like he could not ignore or overlook their innocent smiles.  This to me makes any violence meted out to children as totally horrendous, the cruelty of any vice against them surely makes their angels cry!!  All the more so because we know that crimes against children are absolutely reprehensible.  They have no words or any language to describe what they feel and how it hurts.  The younger they are the deeper the hurt and with it a lifelong burning pain they will always carry.

Jesus had further words to say “whoever would scandalise one of these little ones . . . depths of the sea” Matt 18: 5 – 7.  For the people of Jesus’ time there was no deviously abused internet technology to twist and distort their minds.  But sadly, in our times to quote ECPAT- USA reports that at least 100.000 children in the USA are sexually exploited. “Pimps market and sell children for sex – openly – at popular online classified sites.  They sell them at truck stops.  They sell them on streets in every city in America” (National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children)

Children in this Covid Era
Unfortunately, we live through this pandemic at a time when nobody can predict just how long the Corona virus will persist/hang around? But what we do know is that world poverty will increase exponentially, creating situations where the underlying factors for human trafficking will follow in tandem – as day follows night.

Gender Inequity: Girls are the most powerless of all vulnerable populations because of social and cultural factors that devalue women and girls.  Very often girls have no control over their destiny and their lower status makes them more likely to be sold voluntarily by their families.  In many parts of Africa they are forced into childhood marriages and genitally mutilated prior to that marriage.  What awesome burdens they are subjected to and in most cases, before they reach 10 years of age.

Poverty:  Sadly in some parts of the world this steep rise in poverty will affect the most vulnerable and women and girls will suffer most.  Families may sell their children to traffickers simply because they cannot feed them.  Or they may be convinced that they are offering their children to someone who can give them a better life and maybe education is part of the deal.
Welcome to this Link below of a KTN documentary and we were part of it in the making.  We see little girls of Karamojong, Uganda sold by their parents for less than the price of a goat.  Incredible but sadly too true.
CLICK HERE Karamajong-servants-trail-of-karamajang-girls-trafficked-from-uganda-to-kenya-inside-source

Far from it being a world where we all thought we could look forward to better things in 2020, we find ourselves instead in the middle of a global pandemic, global warming has increased, natural disasters, increased migration, domestic violence and a host of other equally debilitating factors have become the new normal.  While we must hold on to HOPE, it is no time for the faint hearted!
More than ever before, we (especially people of goodwill) need to bring together our muscles and our minds, using the technology around us to an ever increased degree to make the decisions and best practice which will enable us to travel over these unchartered waters of the Twenty First Century. This is our deepest desire so that all of us and especially the most downtrodden will accomplish their life’s tasks on this tiny planet we call home and arrive at our Eternal Journey’s End in Peace, Safety and Joy.

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