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Philippines: UN expert commends gains made and urges closing gaps to protect child from sale and sexual exploitation

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MANILA/GENEVA (9 December 2022) – The Government of the Philippines must take steps to implement a more effective child protection system, a UN expert said today, while welcoming the country’s efforts to combat the sale and sexual exploitation of children.

In a statement delivered at the end of an 11-day visit to the country, Mama Fatima Singhateh, UN Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, commended the enactment of the Anti-Online Sexual Abuse or Exploitation of Children Act and Anti-Child Sexual Abuse or Exploitation Materials Act by the Philippines. The new law, passed in July 2022, requires social media platforms and internet service providers to step up efforts against online sexual abuse to protect children.

The UN expert urged the Government and other stakeholders to redouble their efforts to combat child trafficking, child marriage, sale of children through illegal adoption, sexual exploitation of children in the context of travel and tourism, and teenage pregnancy. Singhateh recommended development of a centralised accurate disaggregated data on incidences, manifestations, and cases of sexual abuse and exploitation of children. She also called for greater attention on the issue of sexual exploitation in the context of travel and tourism and transactional sex.

“I am encouraged by good practices in the country, such as the operation of a centre which provides one-stop medical, psychiatric and social welfare services,” Singhateh said. “The Philippines must set up a robust system for detection of crimes, complaint handling and enhancing capacities of officials and social workers involved in child protection, to provide meaningful support and rehabilitation to victims and survivors,” the expert said.

She also urged authorities to scale up support to vulnerable groups including children with disabilities and indigenous, ethnic and minority children. “It is important to allocate adequate resources and adopt a child-centred, trauma-informed, age and gender-sensitive approach to mitigate amplified risks to vulnerable children,” Singhateh said.

During her visit, the UN expert met with Government officials at national and local levels, UN agencies, representatives of civil society, faith-based leaders, members of the local and diplomatic communities and children. She travelled to Bohol, Cebu, Cotabato, Manila, Pampanga and Valenzuela during her visit.

The Special Rapporteur will present a comprehensive report of her findings and recommendations to the Human Rights Council in Geneva in March 2024.

Ms. Mama Fatima Singhateh (The Gambia) was appointed as the UN Special Rapporteur on sale and sexual exploitation of children by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2020. She is a trained lawyer with over 20 years of experience. Ms Singhateh has held a number of high-level positions in public service in the Gambia. She holds a master’s degree in International Business Law from the University of Hull and has undergone numerous trainings in child rights programming, arbitration and mediation, and legislative drafting. She has drafted laws, organized and conducted numerous training sessions, delivered presentations at both national and international fora and written articles and reports on issues relating to the promotion and protection of the rights of the child.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page – Philippines

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