On this day when South Africa celebrate the Human Rights Day and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (10 December 1948 at Palais de Chaillot, Paris), let me focus the attention to equity and the rights of a Child. What are we doing with the continual sexual abuse and exploitation of the child? Are our children becoming the scatterings of South Africa? Can technology play any part in securing the safety of the child online and elsewhere?
Yesterday the Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa continued with the monitoring of service delivery programme of the South African Police Service (SAPS) Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) Units which was reintroduced in 2010. Statistics showed that the rate of violence against children (aged 18 and younger) had increased in all the provinces between the financial years 2008/2009 and 2009/2010. How can we reduce this numbers through the assistance of technological innovations?
Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities (WCPD)- Ms Lulu Xingwana, emphasised in her foreword of “South Africa’s Children – A Review of Equity and Child Rights.” that we need to make sure that girls and boys are afforded and experience equal opportunities from birth, at home, in school and in career choices; that violence against children is eradicated at its roots in our society; that children in rural and urban areas have the same access to resources while they grow up; that every child eligible for government support receives such support; that every child, no matter where s/he is born or lives, has the same chances to survive and thrive, and live healthily; that children with disabilities experience a society that values them and respects their rights; and that we make every effort to listen to our children.
This year the Child Protection Week will commence on the 28th of May and run until the 03rd of June. The concept of Child Protection Week stems from the African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child”, which emphasises the role of the wider community in keeping children safe.
One of the recommendation from the civil society in the report “Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation in South Africa” is that we need to improve the quality of evidence and prevent further trauma to the child, police, social workers and prosecutors should be trained in effective interviewing techniques. Members of the criminal justice system should also undergo training to sensitise them to the complex issues involved in cases of child sexual abuse and exploitation.
Child prostitution in South Africa is usually a case of survival sex. Children are often forced to work because of economic circumstances – they have to contribute to the family’s income or provide for themselves. Here is a case studyof a true story of how young girls are kidnapped and forced to use drugs and become prostitutes. Organized crime syndicates and unscrupulous employers flourished under these conditions. This give rise to increased child abuse and sexual exploitation is the following forms:
- The production of pornography
- Hardcore sex
- Children being used as drug carriers
- The mistaken belief that having sex with a virgin will rid the perpetrator of HIV/AIDS.
- Children being used or trafficked for the use of their organs
- Children being made to work under inappropriate environments and conditions sweatshops, agriculture, domestic service, etc.
- Sale of child brides
- Child prostitution
- Informal economy (hawkers and beggars)
- Children being murdered and gutted and their dead bodies used to courier drugs across country borders
- An increased demand for black children – especially from European and North American men, for sexual purposes
What can we do to help in this fight?
The Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit announced on the day before yesterday that we are making Microsoft PhotoDNA technology available at no charge to law enforcement in a variety of ways to help enhance child sex abuse investigations and further advance the fight against child pornography worldwide by empowering law enforcement to more quickly identify and rescue victims.
First, be aware of and alert to the problem. In the ‘real world’, neighbourhood watch groups help keep communities safe and prevent crime. That same type of vigilance is needed amongst the online community to help keep the online community safe from child exploitation. We do not recommend average citizens seeking out child pornography online (remember, possession of child pornography is illegal), but if you see any behaviour on Facebook, SkyDrive, Hotmail or Bing (or other online services) that you find suspicious or you believe suggests the potential exploitation or harm a child, report it as abuse to the online service. And if you know about or suspect child sexual abuse in any form, report it to your local law enforcement agency, SAPS Children’s Corner or NCMEC’s CyberTipline at www.cybertipline.com.
Second, help us drive demand for further action, build public awareness and help bring this issue out of the shadows and into the open. This is an uncomfortable issue to discuss, but without public demand we won’t see the kind of increased focus and investment needed to make a broader impact in the area. Regardless of the online services you use, contact the providers and encourage them to take proactive action in the fight against child exploitation and show your support for others joining Microsoft and Facebook in NCMEC’s PhotoDNA program. Tell your legislators that this is a priority for you. Make your voice heard.
Government and Policymaker
Government and policymakers should continue to support strong global collaboration across industry, hotlines and law enforcement to enable the removal of these images from the Internet and the successful prosecution of these crimes. This is a purely voluntary effort and a great example of corporate and industry leadership on this complex, difficult issue. Laws should provide the appropriate safe harbours for service providers who take proactive steps to find, report and eliminate these images, but these steps should not be mandated – this must remain voluntary. They also should fully fund robust law enforcement efforts at the global, national, provincial and local levels. Most importantly, all policymakers and leaders have a great opportunity to use their bully pulpit to raise awareness around the problem of child exploitation online and create the necessary public demand for action that is essential for progress in this fight.
Online service provider
Online service providers should work together to develop and share best practices and technology like PhotoDNA that enable them to identify, remove and report these images. We recognize that PhotoDNA might not be the right answer for everyone, but we do encourage all online service providers to begin proactively addressing these issues and help to stop the distribution of child sexual abuse images on our services. Online service providers interested in implementing PhotoDNA – whether they are U.S. or otherwise – can contact NCMEC at PhotoDNA@ncmec.org for more information.
South African Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (SACMEC) has a comprehensive and secure database that stores photos and information of children pro-actively that will most definitely assist in the recovery of missing children.
Child Online Protection (COP)- hosted by the department of communication, has been established as an international collaborative network for action to promote the online protection of children worldwide by providing guidance on safe online behaviour in conjunction with other UN agencies and partners.
The film and publication board through one of their site Anti-Child Pornography has also established the internet hotline, a service that affords the members of the public with an opportunity to report, online, any child pornography or sexual abuse images discovered accidentally on the internet. This may also include child grooming activities hosted in the chat rooms. The internet hotline will also forward a detailed report relating to child pornography to the law enforcement agencies within the country for prosecution. Their international networking and imminent partnership with INHOPE allows them to take action against child pornography (child sexual abuse images) on the internet hosted outside South Africa. These international networks will then pass their reports to the appropriate law enforcement agencies.
South Africa has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. – Together we should be able to help to solve this massive problem in South Africa, Africa and worldwide.