ECPAT Philippines commemorates 25 years of combating commercial sexual exploitation of children

ECPAT International, a global network of civil society organisations dedicated to ending the commercial sexual exploitation of children, celebrated its 25th anniversary on May 5, 2015.


Twenty-five years ago, the idea of a campaign to ‘End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism’ was launched in Chiang Mai, Thailand, by a small group of concerned individuals and organisations from across the globe.


In May 1990, a group of researchers and social workers, representing a number of organisations and faith-based groups from Thailand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and India, and other places, had gathered in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand, for a Consultation on ‘Tourism and Child Prostitution in Asia.’ Launched in 1991, the first ECPAT campaign ‘to end the sexual abuse of children by tourists’ was born out of that meeting.


Twenty-five years later, this campaign has evolved into a global network of civil society organisations, now known by the acronym ECPAT, dedicated to ending the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), with member groups and affiliates in 77 countries.


Here in the Philippines, ECPAT has worked on combating CSEC through extensive networking and lobbying for reform in legislation and policy since 1991. ECPAT Philippines actively participated in the making of important laws that aid in the prosecution of criminals associated with CSEC: Republic Act 7610 or the Special Protection Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act; Republic Act 9208 or the Trafficking in Persons Act; RA 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009.


Now that laws are in place, ECPAT Philippines works to ensure that these are properly implemented. It provides capacity building trainings and awareness raising activities to guide the work of those responsible for and working with children, particularly travel and tourism companies and local government units in major tourist destinations.


ECPAT Philippines has comprehensively supported the government in responding to the issues of child trafficking and child pornography. It had been an NGO representative on the Inter-Agency Council Against Child Trafficking (IACAT), and currently on the Inter-Agency Council Against Child Pornography (IACACP), and Committee for the Special Protection of Children (CSPC). ECPAT is also a founding member of the Philippines Against Child Trafficking (PACT), a network of child rights advocates committed to building communities that protect children against trafficking.


ECPAT Philippines makes certain that its work is aligned with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is an active member of the Philippine NGO Coalition on the UNCRC, a group composed of 16 NGOs that monitors the adherence of the Philippines to the said convention. In 2011, ECPAT Philippines authored the initial Alternative Report on the implementation of the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. This report recommends that the state shall provide livelihood opportunities for survivors and their families, strengthen awareness raising campaigns on CSEC to educate children and communities, prioritize training of law enforcement officials, and allot more funding and personnel for direct services for victims and vulnerable groups, among others.


Furthermore, ECPAT seeks to ensure that children and youth are actively involved in engagements that uphold their own rights. ECPAT trains them in advocacy skills, helps them to have a voice, so they can express their views and raise awareness on important issues that affect them.


Meanwhile, ECPAT Philippines is grateful for all the support it’s got for the past 25 years. It calls on everyone to keep working to further protect children at all times.


“ECPAT Philippines has worked hard to help bridge gaps in mechanisms that protect children in the Philippines. We are hoping that our efforts in collaboration with all the concerned organizations and citizens, as well as the government, be enforced at all times,” said Dolores Alforte, ECPAT Philippines Executive Director.


“CSEC is a serious and fast-growing crime that severely scars children, holding them back from living a full life. No child deserves this. Rest assured that ECPAT will carry on working and collaborating with civil society, including children themselves, to end this phenomenon. But we all have to remember that every person bears the responsibility of protecting and taking care of children. If you are aware of an inappropriate activity involving children, speak up. The only way we can do it is with each other,” she added.