In the Philippines, children are sold into domestic servitude and the cybersex trade by human traffickers who deceive them into believing that they will have a better life. Many victims come from rural, mountain villages and are intrigued by the promise of a well-paid job. They believe they are leaving their impoverished lives for an opportunity to earn money, but instead become entangled in a nightmare.
Child domestic workers are expected to do adult work and suffer extreme physical, verbal, and sometimes sexual abuse. They are deprived of opportunities for schooling and self-development. Their vulnerability is consistently exploited, and they have no immediate outside contact or support network. There is a disturbing power dynamic between the child and the employer, who exercises guardianship and stewardship over the child domestic worker.
Cybersex trafficking is the other sinister form of modern-day slavery in the Philippines — the live sexual abuse of children streamed via the internet. Controlled by adults who collect money through online transactions, children are directed in real time by a predator located anywhere in the world. Unlike in many street-based sex trafficking cases, criminals directing this live abuse are specifically looking for young children. The customers use chat rooms and messaging services to purchase and/or trade child pornography, or to make connections with sellers located in a country like the Philippines who can offer a child to view live. Customers wire a secure payment online, anonymously and easily, to the trafficker in the Philippines.
“Philippines: Girls as a Commodity” sheds light on these two forms of modern-day slavery in the Philippines and was created to amplify the voices of survivors on their journey to healing and recovery. The project demonstrates, in real time, the daily life of rescued Filipino adolescent girls who live in a long-term shelter where they receive psychological care and learn life skills.