Mindoro Island is a busy tourist destination in the Philippines but the luxury resorts and crystal clear waters hide the island’s murky underside of sex tourism. Poverty has driven thousands of children and young people into trafficking.
Perpetrators – who include locals as well as foreign tourists - approach potential victims through promises of good jobs, gifts or money. They take advantage of sophisticated online communication networks, making them more difficult to track. Children are coerced into sex out of desperation for income and the physical and emotional effects are long-lasting and devastating.
Fear of dishonour or loss or revenue from foreign tourists compels many communities to remain silent about the issue.
Stairway Foundation was set up in 1990, to promote children’s rights with a particular focus on the issue of child sexual abuse and exploitation.
The organisation runs a residential programme for former street boys using art, theatre and other creative means as a tool for rehabilitation and empowerment. A series of short animations about child sexual abuse has been key in driving forward Stairway’s message. Stairway Foundation also runs a Community Assistance Programme for the indigenous Mangyan people who are heavily discriminated against by the local population, helping to support education, health and hygiene for their children.
Stairway Foundation provides residential facilities for 15 former street boys per year aged between 10 and 14, where they undergo a year-long recovery process aimed at giving the life skills and support they need to end street life and remain off the streets.
Photos: Kat Palasi/Stars Foundation