Sun, Jun 06, 2004 - Page 17 News List

Diary of cyber-sex virgin

The Internet is widely used as a tool to meet people, for a date, or simply for sex. While there is no law against this, there is against prostitution, which is becoming increasinly popular online

By Diana Freundl  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Jean said she uses chat rooms to make new Internet friends, but most of her female friends have been on "no sex" dates with boys they met online. She wasn't sure how many of her classmates used the Internet to meet someone for sex, but she knew of two girls who allegedly answered advertisements from men willing to pay schoolgirls for sex.

A survey last year conducted by various women's organizations in Taiwan found that of 94 girls who had worked in the sex trade, 40 percent were introduced by peers and 10 percent were recruited by employment agencies while 20 percent were lured into the trade through Internet chat rooms.

ECPAT (End Child Prostitution Association in Taiwan), conducted an additional survey the same year of 140 girls residing in a half-way house, asking them which method they used most frequently during their employment in the sex industry. Thirty percent said they used the Internet.

"They [chat rooms] make it easy for girls to engage in enjo-kosai [Japanese for young girls who prostitute their bodies for money]. It is easy for them to find men without leaving their house," ECPAT Secretary General Lee Li-feng (李麗芬) said.

According to Lee, most girls get involved in the sex industry because of economic problems, but a small number try enjo-kosai because they are curious.

The Internet makes it easier for them, she said, backing her statement with a survey of 40 girls who had engaged in enjo-kosai, 35 percent of whom tried it out of curiosity.

Lee said banning personal sites such as AFF is not the answer to ending child prostitution but she is concerned about who is monitoring these sites. At present ECPAT recruits and trains volunteers to monitor chat rooms. The organization cooperates with the police, providing access to their online database and past research obtained by volunteers.

Detective Chen Yong-shen (陳永昇) of the Department of Internet Crime with the Taipei City Police Department of Criminal Investigation Division said the department is overwhelmed with investigations of chat rooms with ads in which people sell, or are willing to pay for sex, but they only ever find a small fraction of those who post the advertisements.

During the interview, the detective pointed to a 15-year-old boy leaving the office in tears. His father had brought him in after he discovered the boy had offered to pay NT$2000 for a one-night stand in an Internet chat room.

Unlike this case where the boy's father wanted to frighten the boy with a trip to the police station, the detective said young offenders arrested in cases involving enjo-kosai are taken to shelters and left in the care of organizations like ECPAT.

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