In the name of humanity, it is our duty to protect children from cybersex trafficking

MSP Rona Mackay has said it is our “duty and responsibility, in the name of humanity” to protect children from cybersex trafficking.

At a Scottish Parliament debate, the Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP told how the criminal industry of livestreaming child abuse is even happening in Scotland.

Police Scotland and the National Crime Agency have been working with the International Justice Mission (IJM) to track down buyers and enablers of online child abuse.

Ms Mackay has called on the public to support the #NotOnMyScreen campaign to raise awareness of the crisis and help authorities tackle it.

She said: “This is not just an international issue. Scottish children are becoming the subjects of online abuse in increasing numbers.

“Last year, more than 30 million indecent images of Scottish children were uncovered online over a six-week period. I repeat that 30 million images were found — everyone should think about that — and that could be just the tip of the iceberg.

“Five hundred and twenty-three children were identified as potential victims of abuse, and some victims were as young as three. Police crime statistics show that there is not one constituency in this Parliament where online child sexual exploitation is not an issue. It is here, on our doorsteps.”

Ms Mackay emphasised how the most successful way of tracking down perpetrators is via friends and family.

She said: “It is important to remember that the perpetrators are often individuals that we would not pick out on the street. They could be sitting next to us on a train. They do not have “I am an abuser” tattooed on their foreheads.

“That is why we need public engagement to tackle the problem, through awareness and reporting in communities.

“Some of the most effective information that the police gather in online child sexual exploitation cases comes from reporting by friends and family, so it is vital that the public are engaged with the issue and that we all share the responsibility to fight abuse.”

She added: “We must protect innocent children from this horrific exploitation. That is our duty and responsibility, in the name of humanity.”

ENDS

MSPs debated the motion:

That the Parliament recognises the concerns raised by people in Aberdeenshire East and around Scotland regarding the online exploitation and abuse of children; commends the efforts of the International Justice Mission (IJM) in highlighting child slavery and exploitation overseas; understands that this abuse is supported and enabled by online purchasers in western countries, including Scotland; commends Police Scotland and the National Crime Agency on their work with the IJM to identify and prosecute the buyers and enablers of online child abuse and cybersex trafficking, and further commends them for raising awareness of the problem at a national and international level in order to stop this abuse of children.

Rona Mackay’s full speech:

I thank Gillian Martin for bringing this debate to the Parliament.

Like all my colleagues in the Parliament, I have attended many events since I was elected, all of which have been interesting and enlightening. The event that I attended earlier this year, which was hosted by Jenny Marra MSP, who I understand has done admirable work in the field of child sexual exploitation and cybersex trafficking, had a lasting effect on me. I found it powerful and disturbing, as I know that my colleagues did.

I came away thinking two things. First, I was shocked that this could be happening to children throughout the world, including in Scotland. Secondly, I was in awe of the amazing work that is being done by the International Justice Mission and by the specialist police officers in Police Scotland and the National Crime Agency who are dedicated to eradicating this horrible scourge. The officers who protect our children see things every day that no individual should ever have to witness, because this truly is the darker side of the internet and human nature.

Cybersex trafficking of children is a growing and devastating form of modern-day slavery, which was unimaginable before the digital age and involves the live streaming of sexual abuse of children, which is viewed over the internet. As Gillian Martin said in her powerful speech, the majority of victims who are abused and exploited are the poorest and most vulnerable.

The IJM partners with justice systems throughout the developing world to bring criminals to justice, restore survivors and strengthen justice systems. Its work is essential in preventing violence against vulnerable individuals throughout the world who have no other access to justice. In an effort to raise awareness, the IJM launched the not on my screen campaign.

This is not just an international issue. Scottish children are becoming the subjects of online abuse in increasing numbers. Last year, more than 30 million indecent images of Scottish children were uncovered online over a six-week period. I repeat that 30 million images were found—members should think about that—and that could be just the tip of the iceberg. Five hundred and twenty-three children were identified as potential victims of abuse, and some victims were as young as three. Police crime statistics show that there is not one constituency in this Parliament where online child sexual exploitation is not an issue. It is here, on our doorsteps.

The not on my screen campaign aims to educate individuals about the alarming levels of abuse and encourage everyone to take a stand against it. The IJM is the largest anti-slavery organisation in the world. As internet access increases globally, victims can be exploited anywhere, including by someone with just a mobile phone.

In the Philippines, cybersex trafficking of children is growing exponentially, and Philippine authorities are receiving in excess of 6,000 referrals every month, many of which have connections to the UK. The trafficking is being driven by online users in western countries, including Scotland. IJM programmes around the world are currently protecting more than 21 million people from violence and slavery, 54 per cent of whom are aged between one and 12 years old.

It is important to remember that the perpetrators are often individuals that we would not pick out on the street. They could be sitting next to us on a train. They do not have “I am an abuser” tattooed on their foreheads. That is why we need public engagement to tackle the problem, through awareness and reporting in communities. Some of the most effective information that the police gather in online child sexual exploitation cases comes from reporting by friends and family, so it is vital that the public are engaged with the issue and that we all share the responsibility to fight abuse.

The IJM has recommended the establishment of a working group to consider what action to take regarding online CSE. The resourcing of a data fusion centre to address online CSE would be a step forward.

I urge members to add their voices to the campaign: they can tweet, using #NotOnMyScreen, to help to bring awareness to the issue.

We must protect innocent children from this horrific exploitation. That is our duty and responsibility, in the name of humanity.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>