LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Nobel peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi called on Friday for a United Nations convention on online child sex abuse and trafficking, saying an international law is the only way to end the global scourge.
The Indian campaigner against child trafficking said he was gathering support from fellow laureates and religious leaders including Pope Francis for a treaty and a global task force to tackle the multi-billion-dollar industry.
“The same criminal gangs involved in international child trafficking are also involved in online child pornography,” Satyarthi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
“I told the Pope that while a government can ban these sites, no one can stop the online porn and sexual abuse due to free digital space, he said after meeting the leader of the Catholic church on Friday to enlist his support.
Satyarthi said he had raised the issue of historic child sex abuse in the Catholic church – an issue Pope Francis has repeatedly spoken out on in the past.
“We must ensure that sexual abuse and exploitation of our most vulnerable children is never repeated,” he said.
The Vatican’s press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Satyarthi said there was a need for an international law because online crimes transcend across borders.
He said his demands were submitted to the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in September.
While demand for child sex images largely comes from Western nations such as Britain and Australia, children are often abused in countries like the Philippines where growing access to cheap internet and technology is fuelling the crime, experts say.
More and more children are being groomed, abused over live streams and sold for sex – often via social media and listings websites – for ever-cheaper prices in countries from India to the United States.
Satyarthi, joint winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize with Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, is also urging a global toll-free helpline to report cases of online child sex abuse.
(Reporting by Roli Srivastava @Rolionaroll; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)