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Alarming increase in online child sexual exploitation and abuse sweeps across Africa

Alarming increase in online child sexual exploitation and abuse sweeps across Africa

Disturbing reports from the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) and ChildFund have uncovered a sharp rise in online child sexual exploitation and abuse (OCSEA) across the continent, shedding light on a growing crisis affecting the most vulnerable.

The findings reveal that in some African countries, nearly a fifth of children under 17 have received unsolicited online requests regarding sexual topics, with a staggering one-third of these resulting in face-to-face meetings, particularly in South Africa.

Of grave concern is the shockingly young age of many victims, with more than 60% being young children, including infants and toddlers, and 65% being girls.

Dr. Joan Nyanyuki, Executive Director of ACPF, warned that Africa is facing a burgeoning problem, with evidence indicating that the continent may be becoming a new frontier for online sexual predators. She emphasized the profound impact of such exploitation, highlighting the severe physical, psychological, and social damage inflicted upon children.

Chege Ngugi, Africa Regional Director at ChildFund, pointed to inadequate laws and services, coupled with underdeveloped digital forensics capacity, as factors enabling the exploitation. He stressed the urgent need for African countries to bolster protection for children online.

The reports highlighted various disturbing trends, including children sharing personal information with strangers, receiving unwanted sexual requests, and being threatened or blackmailed into engaging in sexual activities online.

Additionally, criminal pathways to OCSEA were identified, including the production and distribution of child pornography, online grooming, sexting, and the sexual extortion of children.

ACPF and ChildFund called attention to the woefully inadequate legislation and policy frameworks across Africa, urging for increased awareness, adoption of new laws, enforcement of existing ones, and cross-sectoral collaboration to combat this pervasive issue.

The organizations underscored the importance of building the capacities of professionals, harnessing tech innovations, and investing in research to address the complex challenges posed by online child sexual exploitation and abuse.


 

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