New shocking cases of Filipino mothers live-streaming their children performing sex acts for foreigners have emerged as Australian MPs move to toughen punishment for Australian child cybersex offenders.
Police said they arrested a 35-year-old mother offering her five-year-old daughter to customers online in exchange for money, during a raid in Bacolod City, the capital of Negros Occidental, an impoverished Philippine province.
Seven children – two two-year-olds, two five-year-olds and others aged 14, 15, and 17 were rescued and taken into protective custody on Wednesday, police said. One of the two-year-old girls is the daughter of the arrested woman.
In May, Australian Federal Police helped expose a cybersex ring operating in the cybersex hotspot 717 kilometres south of Manila. The ring was live-streaming explicit videos of children to men in Australia and the United States.
Three sisters aged eight, nine and 12 were among children who were rescued in that raid. Three suspects are facing trial and possible life sentences on charges of human trafficking, cybercrime and child abuse.
However in Australia police have been dismayed by lenient sentences for convicted cyber-sex predators.
In Queensland a man was fined $500 and put on a three-year good behaviour bond after being convicted of receiving explicit images of two girls from their Filipino mother, the youngest of whom was aged 10.
The International Justice Mission (IJM), a non-profit organisation that has backed the Philippine raids, has urged Australia to enforce tougher jail sentences for Australians watching overseas abuses against children online.
MPs from the major political parties have indicated their support for the move and the government plans to introduce amendments to the criminal code later this year.
MPs have also signalled support for legislation to increase penalties for internet service providers who fail to contact police if they become aware of cybersex crimes. The current maximum penalty for this offence is $18,000.
Police and some MPs have expressed concern that an unintended consequence of legislation passed in June banning 20,000 Australian registered child sex offenders from travelling overseas is that many of them will turn to the child cybersex industry that is booming in countries like the Philippines, where foreign-linked syndicates exploit impoverished families.
Skye Kakoschke-Moore, a South Australian Senator in the Nick Xenophon Team, attempted to move amendments to the criminal code that specifically target cybersex crimes in June.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann told the Senate at the time that while the government supports the amendments in principle “we need to undertake the necessary due diligence, examine any possible unintended consequences and consult with our law enforcement agencies and industry”.
Victorian senator Derryn Hinch, who pushed for the ban on registered child sex offenders, said he had received a commitment from the government that amendments dealing with cybersex would be presented to Parliament in the spring session.
Senator Kakoschke-Moore said current laws do not reflect the fact that sexual exploitation of children overseas is taking place in real time.
“I have been told of cases involving babies, with multiple children present at one time, who are forced to abuse each other and other situations that can only be considered torture,” she said.
Senator Kakoschke-Moore said current laws were aimed at Australians travelling overseas to engage in sex acts.
“In the case of cybersex trafficking, the physical abuse inflicted on children occurs overseas but is commissioned, directed and paid for by a perpetrator in Australia,” she said.
“The crime might be virtual but the children are being sexually abused in the real world,” she said.
Senator Kakoschke-Moore said her amendments were aimed at plugging a gap in the criminal code that is expected to be exploited once registered sex offenders are stripped of their passports.
Lucille Dejito, director of legal interventions for the IJM in Cebu, praised what she called a coordinated law enforcement response to rescue the Bacolod children.
“The crime of online sexual exploitation of children is hidden, layered and complex,” she said.
More than 50 per cent of children rescued in IJM cases are only one to two years old. Seventy per cent of cases involved parents, relatives or close family friends of the victims.
Hundreds of child victims have been placed in the protective custody of Philippine government agencies.
Foreign predators pay between $US20 ($25) and $US150 for a child sex show broadcast online.
Australian Peter Scully is facing trial in the Philippines on charges of producing videos for dark web clients overseas where children as young as 18 months were sexually abused and tortured.
His clients allegedly paid his syndicate thousands of dollars for each viewing. – WA Today