Janet is one of those15-year-olds who have been enslaved in a life of sexual bondage had she not been rescued from a brothel in Manila, waiting to be trafficked abroad.

Her mother gave her to a pimp thinking she would meet a foreigner and marry into wealth. The pimp, bedecked with gold chains and glittering rings brought her to a sex club and her life of exploitation began.

When I was looking for Janet, I saw the pimp in the lounge of the sex bar waiting for his pay-off. The rich, beer-bellied customers, smirking with satisfaction, waddled out of the cubicles where the children were abused and gave him a wad of notes.

Only later did I found out that Janet was left huddled in a corner, crying in bewilderment and pain after the customer inserted a bottle into her private parts. This is just one of the many violations and indignities she suffered. It took almost a year of supportive and cry therapy for her to tell this horrific tale. Today she has recovered and is attending school and picking up the pieces of her broken life.

Over a million children worldwide are abused in similar ways every year. They are traded as mere commodities. They are frequently battered to force them into submission. All this to satisfy the depraved appetites of the customers in an ever-growing trade in child sexual exploitation.

Child sex tourism thrives when internet server providers allow their networks to be used to trade child pornography. This is what whets the appetites of paedophiles that flock here looking for children.

These are recruited by pimps, working for depraved businessmen with the complicity of government officials who issue licences and permits for the sex clubs that are fronts for prostitution.

These corrupt officials who promote the sex industry and allow children to be abused bear the greatest responsibility. The one congressman ever convicted and jailed of child sexual exploitation in the Philippines has been promised early release allegedly as a political compromise.

Government officials worldwide have the sworn duty and authority to protect the children but perversely some abuse their power to facilitate the sex trade. These paragons of perversity turn a blind eye to the child abuse and pick up their cash.

That is why sex tourists can come to places like the Philippines and other nations with weak law enforcement because they can abuse with impunity and, if caught, can easily negotiate a settlement with the police or the prosecutors.

A US State Department 2005 report has put the Philippines on a low status Tier 2 watch list as a nation with a poor record in stopping the trafficking of children and convicting suspects. It says: “The Philippines placement on the Tier 2 Watch list is due to it’s failure to show evidence of increasing efforts to convict traffickers.”

The report calls on the government to convict the criminals and any government officials found to be involved in trafficking. We couldn’t agree more. (Preda.org)

Fr. Shay Cullen is a Columban missionary: PREDA Centre, Kalaklan, Olongapo City.

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