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Protecting children is not just the purview of a few, but the responsibility of all, says Unicef.

KUALA LUMPUR: The sexual exploitation of children in connection with travel and tourism is a growing problem in destinations all over the world.

According to United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef), an estimated two million children are affected by sexual exploitation each year.

The UN revealed that there were high levels of sexual exploitation of children online, with an average of five child victims of online sexual abuse identified by Interpol and other authorities every day.

“Unicef research revealed that the number of Webpages containing child sexual abuse material grew by 147 per cent from 2012 to 2014, with girls and children 10 or younger depicted in 80 per cent of these materials,” it said in a statement yesterday.

It said throughout the world, legislation had been drawn up and action taken by law enforcement to combat the widespread distribution and accessibility of child pornography through the Internet, such as in Malaysia’s case with the setting up of the Child Cyber Sexual Investigation unit by the federal police.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child also recommended that all state parties and the international community urgently tackle the issue, the UN agency said.

It added that Article 3(1)(c) of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (OPSC) also obliges state parties to punish those in possession of child pornography, especially for the purpose of producing, distributing, disseminating, importing, exporting, offering or selling.

“However, protection of children is not just the purview of a few, but the responsibility of all,” it said.

“What happens on the World Wide Web is a reflection of society at large.

“The recent case of the British national arrested for child sexual abuse and exploitation involving children in Malaysia is a small part of the horrific trade in child pornography and the extensive scourge of paedophilia around the world.”

Unicef Malaysia said the implementation and management of monitoring and surveillance mechanisms are to ensure that offenders are stopped before they do harm.

It said this could mean supervising interactions between children and adults, not allowing anyone to enter your home without permission and supervision, being vigilant about where children are and what they are doing, and notifying Internet regulators of Websites exploiting children.

“Every child deserves the right to be safe wherever he or she is, and it is our role as parents, community leaders, neighbours, religious figures, technology providers, youth, school administrators and more, to be alert and notify the relevant authorities when you see a child in danger, online or offline,” it said.

The UN agency also said that to protect children from harm, children who experienced violence and sexual exploitation must be identified quickly so that they could receive support services, and perpetrators must be quickly apprehended and prosecuted.

It said that mechanisms should be in place to ensure that convicted offenders did not continue to exploit and harm children once they had served their sentences. Monitoring and surveillance mechanisms should include the establishment of a registry of sex offenders to ensure children are protected in their homes and communities.

“As crimes against children blur the lines between online and offline abuse, we must work together with law enforcement and other regulatory agencies to combat child sexual exploitation.

“When we send a strong message, through coordinated and concrete actions, that child sexual abuse is not acceptable anywhere around the world, the horrific crimes hidden by the Dark Web will be revealed, more perpetrators will be arrested and more children will be saved from further harm.”

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