Technology blamed for adolescents’ sexual exploitation

By LUCAS BARASA
Daily Nation, Posted Wednesday, October 6 2010 at 16:17

In Summary

Technologies used to abuse adolescent girls.

  • Newsgroups.
  • Web messages and bulletin boards.
  • Websites.
  • Web-based chat rooms.
  • Search engines.
  • Peer to peer network and file swapping programmes.
  • Mobile phones.

 

Technological advancement is to blame for increased sexual exploitation among adolescent girls, according to a new report.

The State of the World’s Girls 2010 said Information Communication and Technology (ICT) is exposing the girls to images of violence, exploitation and degradation of women “at a time in their lives when they are developing sexually”.

The report-the fourth instalment of Plan International’s “Because I am a Girl” series added that more girls than boys are affected by sexual exploitation worldwide and that one in five women report having been sexually abused before the age of 15.

“The internet creates intimacies with total strangers that seem safe, and so adolescent girls have become prime targets for modern methods of abuse, including trafficking via the internet, mobile phones and other communications technologies,” the report says.

The report was launched in Nairobi Wednesday by a director in the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussein, Plan International Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa Gezahegn Kebede and UN Habitat head of Gender Mainstreaming Lucia Kiwala and Safe Spaces NGO director Peninah Nthenya.

Terming the internet as just a new medium for old kinds of bad behaviour, it said “it is now possible for someone to snap a degrading photo of a young girl and disseminate it in seconds.”

It said adolescents were in great danger of “online seduction or solicitation” where a girl’s trust is securely drawn into a situation where she can be harmed.

“This enables sex offenders to engage girls on many levels, from sexual chat to enticing them into physical contact. The recent case of a young woman in the UK who was raped and murdered by a man she met through Facebook illustrates the real and present dangers these types of online solicitations can pose to adolescent girls,” the report said.

It said two-thirds of girls do not feel safe online.

Plan International official Nyambura Gathumbi said the situation in Kenya has been worsened by the low prices of internet enabled mobile phones, showing of pornography by some public service vehicles and FM radio stations airing of explicit content in the morning when children are going to school.

The report called for online safety saying international and national laws need to be at par with rapid advancement of IT platforms.

It says the best way to support the wellbeing of girls and their development and to continue the fight against poverty is to equip them with skills to effectively and safely navigate the threats “so that they can make the most of opportunities that are available for them.”

The report noted that city life poses risks for girls such as poverty, overcrowding, poor sanitation, unlit streets, lack of housing, sexual harassment and violence.

Currently, it said, there are more people living in cities than in rural areas and that by 2030 an estimated 1.5 billion girls will live in urban areas.

It reveals that twice as many young women in cities experience physical or sexual violence compared to young rural women.

Plan International also cited discrimination against girls and young women as main cause of poverty.

“Girls and boys have the same entitlements to human rights, but they face different challenges in accessing them.

“This lack of opportunity and care is unfair, as investing in girls has a powerful effect on a family and community’s experience of poverty,” Mr Kebede said.

He said locking girls away to ‘protect’ them from threats facing them also denies them opportunities to “expand their world, supercharge their development and help lift them, their families, their communities and, indeed, whole countries out of poverty”.

Mr Hussein said the urban environment and digital world threatens to plunge millions of girls further to poverty.

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