Terre des Hommes Netherlands raises the alarm about a largely unknown, but quickly spreading new form of child exploitation: webcam child sex tourism. 

netherlands-child-webcam-sexIn less than two and a half months Terre des Hommes researchers were able to identify over 1,000 adults from more than 65 countries involved in international online sex crimes. The group passed the results of its investigation to Interpol. With the help of a virtual 10 year old Philippine girl, named Sweetie, the researchers operated in public chat rooms to attract potential clients. They said they were quickly approached by more than 20,000 online predators from around the world, asking for webcam sex performances.

“The moment we got online, we were swamped, like an avalanche,” TDH special projects director Hans Guyt told a news conference webcast from the Hague. Researchers then gathered information about the predators through social media to uncover their identities.

“Webcam child-sex tourism is spreading like an epidemic,” said Albert Jaap van Santbrink, director of TDH Netherlands“These people think they are invisible. These people think they are untouchable,” Mr. Guyt added. The Internet is free, but not lawless.”

Despite the fact that webcam child sex tourism is banned by most national and international laws, according to Terre des Hommes only 61383593205_kuxlarge perpetrators worldwide have been convicted of this crime. “It is not a problem of existing laws”, says Hans Guyt, “The United Nations has established laws that make this child abuse nearly universally illegal. The biggest problem is that the police don’t take action until child victims file reports, but children almost never report these crimes. These children are usually forced to do this by adults or by extreme poverty. Sometimes they have to testify against their own family, which is almost an impossible thing to do for a child”, explains Guyt. 

With the evidence collected with the help of their digital “avatar”, Terre des Hommes is pushing all governments to adopt proactive investigation policies, with a world wide petition, starting today.