Nairobi News


Online commercial sexual exploitation of children in Africa on the rise

Even as Africa commemorates the Day of the African Child today (June 16,2023), children in Africa are face a growing threat — Online Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (OCSEA).

This is according to a report by Joining Forces Alliance, an organisation that comprises six child-focused international NGOs, including ChildFund Alliance, Plan International, Save the Children International, SOS Children’s Villages International, Terre des Hommes International Federation and World Vision International, has voiced concerns over the devastating impact of OCSEA on children.

The recent report titled “Disrupting harm in Kenya” revealed alarming statistics. Approximately 67 per cent of Kenyan children are internet users, with 7 per cent being offered money or gifts in exchange for sexual images or videos.

Additionally, 3 per cent have faced threats or blackmail to engage in sexual activities online, and 7 per cent have had their sexual images shared without consent. Shockingly, most children who experienced online sexual exploitation and abuse had also suffered physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.

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With the number of internet users in Africa reaching 590 million in 2022, including a significant portion of children, it is imperative to address this emerging child protection challenge, the report recommends.

The Africa Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of Children warns that limited internet access obstructs children’s rights, such as education, freedom of expression, and freedom of association. While the digital environment offers tremendous opportunities, it also poses risks that must be addressed to ensure children’s safety online.

These risks include producing and distributing child sexual abuse materials, sexual extortion, online grooming, cyberbullying, exposure to adult pornography, and compromised privacy. The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated violence against children, including technology-facilitated sexual exploitation and abuse, as increased online activities left children unsupervised and vulnerable.

“While commendable efforts have been made in Kenya to address online child abuse through legislation and guidelines, such as the Children Act 2022, the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act, and the Industry Guidelines for Child Online Protection and Safety, more needs to be done,” the Alliance noted.

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Joining Forces Alliance has also called for ratification of the African Union Convention on Cybersecurity and Personal Data Protection (Malabo Convention) to enhance regional cooperation.

To combat OCSEA effectively, Joining Forces proposes several recommendations. “Prioritizing the allocation of resources to implement national plans of action, strengthening child justice systems, providing comprehensive information packages to victims and their caregivers, investing in technological infrastructure in educational settings, and promoting child participation in developing solutions,” the Alliance added.

According to the Alliance, there is a need to institute legal frameworks obligating internet service providers and industry players to retain data, block child sexual abuse materials, and comply with law enforcement requests.

As Africa commemorates the Day of the African Child, the Alliance is calling on governments, civil society organizations, and international bodies to unite in safeguarding children in the digital environment.

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