The Ministry of Health and Welfare is considering heavier penalties for offenders associated with child pornography as it seeks to combat a rise in the sexual exploitation and abuse of children.
As the issue reaches alarming proportions, the ministry is considering amending the Child and Youth Sexual Exploitation Prevention Act (兒童級少年性剝削防治條例) so that those who sexually abuse children would receive harsher punishments, Department of Protective Services Director-General Chang Hsiu-yuan (張秀鴛) told reporters on Tuesday.
Under the existing law, those in possession of child pornography face a fine of up to NT$100,000 (US$3,471), while those guilty of disseminating or selling child pornography face up to three years in prison and a fine of up to NT$5 million.
During the first half of this year, 2.38 indecent or obscene photographs of children were disseminated per day across the nation, underscoring the severity of the issue, she said.
In 2018, nude images or obscene videos of children made up 44 percent of sexual exploitation cases, a ratio that quickly grew to 59.1 percent last year and 77.6 percent in the first six months of this year, she said.
Taiwan has about 1,200 child sexual abuse cases per year, Chang said, adding that junior-high students are the most likely victims, followed by senior-high students.
However, elementary-school students are increasingly becoming victims of sexual abuse, she said, citing statistics from this year.
Chang said that she attributes the emerging trend to the ubiquitous use of the Internet and smartphones.
“When parents don’t spend enough time with their children, their offspring can easily find companions on Internet chat platforms and fall prey to sexual predators,” she said.
The children are often lured into taking intimate photographs of themselves or making obscene films, she said.
Once the indecent material is uploaded to the Internet, it rapidly goes viral, she added.
However, the worst is that most victims are afraid to seek help because they fear being blamed and they see the many comments left by Internet users who want to look at such explicit content, she said.
Such a social media environment causes many of the exploited and abused children to become even more psychologically damaged, she said.
Chang called on members of the public to file a report with the police if they notice sexually explicit photographs or videos of children online, saying that everyone must be a whistle-blower to help eradicate child abuse.
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