Latest News

Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse and Online Exploitation in the Wake of COVID-19: An Open Discussion from Pakistan

The wellbeing of many children around the world has been severely affected as a direct consequence of the measures taken to stop the spread of COVID-19, like the closure of schools and prolonged lockdowns.

The United Nations Secretary-General has reported a global surge in domestic-based violence linked to COVID-19, and calls to helplines in some countries have reportedly doubled. Spending more time on virtual platforms can leave children vulnerable to online sexual exploitation and grooming, as predators look to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic.

With this in mind, Search For Justice – CAN Pakistan, and the Child Protection & Welfare Bureau – Government of the Punjab, hosted an online session on Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse and Online Exploitation.

giuliano di paolo YOcQGiweLUA unsplash

The online session was held on 23 June 2020 and involved the participation of Ms. Maria Lucia Uribe, Director of Arigatou International Geneva, Ms. Sadaf Khan, Director of Programs Media Matters for Democracy; Dr. Naeem Zafar, Pakistan Pediatric Association, and President of PAHCHAAN; and Ms. Zahida Manzoor, Child Protection Officer at UNICEF Punjab.

Ms. Uribe was invited to speak about community mobilization for the prevention, protection and empowerment of children to combat online sexual abuse and exploitation.

In her intervention, Ms. Uribe talked about the role of parents, caregivers, schools, and faith communities to help prevent children’s online exploitation. She shared about the need of creating child-safeguarding codes of conduct for preventing, and mechanisms for reporting, but also fostering safe and child-friendly spaces for children to feel protected and secure in the case of facing or reporting inappropriate behaviors.

She also highlighted education as a powerful tool to enhance children’s critical thinking and empowering them to speak. “When children and young people are empowered, the perpetrators are less likely to feel like they can violate the child's dignity,” she stated.

We thank the organizers for providing the space to share our views and contributing to raising awareness on this important issue. We also thank the panelists for sharing the floor with us, and the attendants for joining this conversation.

The full recording of the webinar can be seen here.

jeremy alford F9DXZbUy5Do unsplash 2