At least 200,000 children in Tanzania are victims of serious instances of online sexual exploitation, advances and abuse, every year, according to a new study.
The new evidence-led research report, titled ‘Disrupting Harm,’ in Tanzania, based on the study conducted throughout last year reveals that children here are subjected to harmful experiences, such as being blackmailed to engage in sexual activities.
The research, bankrolled by ‘Safe Online,’ was carried out in Tanzania alongside 12 other countries, across Eastern and Southern Africa regions as well as Southeast Asia.
It was conducted by various organizations including; End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT), the International Police (INTERPOL) network and the United Nations Children Fund’s Office of Research (UNICEF – Innocenti.
The research report, has just been dispatched for distribution by Kieran Rumsby the Communications Associate for the Smith and Company
Some 98 per cent of frontline workers surveyed in the study believe that attitudes about discussing sex put children at a greater risk.
Frontline workers reported that online child sexual exploitation and abuse is a ‘new’ issue that many do not understand due to lack of awareness.
“Online child sexual exploitation and abuse is still a very new issue for most of us. Even when you tell the police about online child exploitation and abuse, it will take a long time for them to understand.”Frontline Worker – Disrupting Harm
Additionally, surveyed frontline workers said that many children were not aware of what is considered unacceptable sexual behavior.
This shows a serious lack of awareness and education, which could lead to greater harm. In fact, only 30 percent of internet-using children surveyed in Tanzania had received any sex education.
One frontline worker said, “Most victims of online and offline sexual exploitation are not aware that they were abused.”
The research report reveals that nearly 200,000 children were victims of serious instances of online sexual exploitation and abuse in Tanzania in the last year alone.
- Two percent of the surveyed children were offered money or gifts in exchange for sexual images
- Three percent of internet-using children aged 12-17 surveyed were offered money or gifts online to engage in sexual acts in person.
- Another 3 percent of children were asked to share images and videos showing their private parts to others.
- Six Percent of children received unwanted requests online to talk about sex.
- Additionally, due to the stigmas about sex and lack of education, children who experienced sexual abuse and exploitation may not know how to report. The report found:
- Some 82 percent of the internet-using children surveyed said they did not know how to report harmful content on social media.
- Also, 67 percent said they did not know where to get help if they or a friend were subjected to sexual harassment or abuse.
To tackle online child sexual exploitation and abuse, Disrupting Harm in Tanzania notes that government authorities need to act, fund, and educate.
This includes building greater understanding and awareness of the issues and changing attitudes about discussing sex to empower children to ask for help.
In early 2019, the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children, through its Safe Online initiative, invested US $7 million to develop Disrupting Harm, a holistic and innovative research project that aims to better understand how digital technology facilitates the sexual exploitation and abuse of children.
The methodology developed for these assessments has been implemented across the 13 countries and can be used by other countries in the future.
Online child sexual exploitation and abuse (OCSEA) refers to situations involving digital, internet and communication technologies at some point during the continuum of abuse or exploitation. OCSEA can occur fully online or through a mix of online and in-person interactions between offenders and children.
Internet Penetration in Tanzania
Internet users in Tanzania reached 29,071,817 in March 2021. It could be well past the 35 million figure by March 2022.
This represents an annual increase of 8.3 percent from 26,832,089 estimated internet users recorded in the country in March 2020.
With a population of 58.01 million (WB data 2019), Tanzania has now reached an internet service penetration of 50 percent, compared to the 46 percent recorded in 2019 as per the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authgority (TCRA) data.