Thursday 25 June 2020
International Justice Mission welcomes the passage of legislation in Australia introducing stronger penalties for child sexual abuse crimes. The legislation adds new offences that better capture the exploitative role of Australians and other demand-side offenders in online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) and creates mandatory minimum sentences for the most serious child sexual abuse crimes.
Since 2017, IJM Australia has been advocating for legislative amendments to improve Australia’s response to OSEC, also known as cybersex trafficking of children. The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Crimes Against Children and Community Protection Measures) Bill 2019 was passed by both Houses of the Parliament of Australia on June 16, 2020 and given royal assent on June 22, 2020.
“This new legislation recognises that Australians are fuelling the demand for cybersex trafficking of children. In fact, Australians are the third highest purchasers of this abuse as quoted in the recent Global OSEC report. These legislative changes, however, now reflect the Australian public’s resolve to help end OSEC globally,” said IJM Australia Interim Chief Executive Jacob Sarkodee.
The new legislation, which amends Crimes Act 1914 and Criminal Code Act 1995, enhances the global response to OSEC by increasing penalties for Australians who direct and live-stream the sexual abuse of Filipino children. In line with recommendations made by IJM, the Act makes it clear that a person who watches a livestream of child sexual exploitation is treated the same as a person who commits in-person sexual abuse of a child.
“Demand-side sex offenders are ‘the minds and money’ behind the growing global crime of OSEC,” said IJM Global OSEC Hub Vice President Samson Inocencio Jr. “This law is a critical step to achieving stronger sentences that adequately reflect the gravity of OSEC. We need a law like this to disrupt, restrain, and deter demand-side offending.”
Tougher penalties under the new legislation include life imprisonment for certain aggravated offences. On the supply side, Philippine law provides for jail time of 15 years for attempted trafficking up to life imprisonment for qualified trafficking.
IJM is also pleased to note the amendments cover predators’ use of new technologies to facilitate the online sexual exploitation of children. For example, it targets exploitative websites and networks by making it a new offence to administer electronic services used for child abuse material – including such acts as creating, maintaining, controlling or assisting with these electronic services.
Another new offence is “grooming a person to make it easier to engage in sexual activity with a child outside Australia”. This offence, which carries a minimum sentence of four years (for a second or subsequent offence) and maximum sentence of 15 years, captures typical offending in online sexual exploitation of children.
In a typical OSEC crime, a demand-side sex offender pays a local trafficker to sexually abuse children of specific ages in specific ways and produce new child sexual exploitation materials in photos, videos, and live-streams of that abuse. Both criminals are actually engaging in human trafficking—the sex offender is doing it remotely and “by proxy” in collaboration with the local trafficker who does it in person.
This new offence also captures the typical situation where traffickers ask for money to meet other needs, such as food and children’s education, and the demand-side offender obliges for the ultimate purpose of making it easier to sexually abuse or exploit the children.
“OSEC is a growing global crime that requires ending impunity in both source and demand countries,” said IJM’s END OSEC Center Director John Tanagho. “This horrific crime is often fuelled by offenders in countries such as Australia, the US, Canada, the UK and other European nations who pay to direct the sexual abuse of children. By passing this law, the Australian Government is ensuring that its justice system provides justice for survivors of OSEC.”
According to the recently-released study on the nature and scale of OSEC in the Philippines, Australia was among the three countries where most OSEC customers resided, along with Sweden and the United States.
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 Under the Philippines’ Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act (Republic Act 9208 as amended by RA 10364), a violator faces 15 years imprisonment for attempted trafficking and life imprisonment for qualified trafficking. OSEC traffickers are also typically charged under Cybercrime Prevention Act (RA 10175), Anti-Child Pornography Act (RA 9775), and Child Abuse Law (RA 7610).
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