The Philippines: Child prostitution film marks Human Rights Day

MANILA, Philippines – The Dutch-Filipino film “Lilet Never Happened” premieres in the Philippines on Monday, December 2, to mark the European Union’s celebration of International Human Rights Day on December 10.

The film detailing the struggles of Lilet, an 11-year-old exposed to the world of prostitution, will be shown to a select audience of delegates, ambassadors, and journalists, to draw attention to the problem child prostitution.

Dr. Julian Vasallo, Political Counselor of the EU Delegation in the Philippines, said the challenge is to come up with a global solution to the problem. “The clients come from developed countires,” he said in a press conference, explaining that the EU intends to punish European nationals found violating human rights in the Philippines or in any country outside Europe.

As of now, European nationals may not be tried in their home country for crimes of child prositution committed elsewhere. Vassalo explained that member-states of the EU were given a deadline to change their legislation.

“It’s a way of recognizing that this is a joint problem, and one which needs, therefore, a joint solution.”

“The EU decided to make these crimes special so that today, if Europeans in the Philippines or anywhere engage in sex tourism or child prostitution, child pornography, they can be tried and convicted at home,” Vasalio said.

Best Youth Film

Dutch director Jacco Groen believes in the film’s eye-opening power, not only for politicians and ambassadors but also for the youth as well.

“I saw young people being moved by the film,” he said. “It’s a pity that this film gets a 16+ rating when it’s supposed to be a warning [for the youth.]”

The film was dubbed Best Youth Film by a jury of composed of 14-18 year-olds in the 2013 Kristiansand International Children Film Festival in Norway.

The film and its cast have also travelled to The Netherlands, where discussions in schools were held.

Filipina lead actress Sandy Talag, who plays Lilet, observed how children in Europe have grown mature for their age. “They know the reality of life and they know how and when to stand up for all the victims.” But the 15-year-old actress also lamented they were “already losing their innocence at quite a young age.”

A call to young leaders

Talag, who won Best Actress at the 2013 Oaxaca International Film Festival in Mexico, said she sees the need to be a leader for her generation. She shot to fame after winning a talent search on Philippine television.

“If you’re a youth, you should not be sitting pretty there and doing nothing. You need to help the government, you need to help your fellow countrymen.”

Talag was chosen among 400 other young girls who screened for the role.

The young actress admitted she was “terrified” at having to portray a difficult role. “I’m really honored and I feel so blessed…For giving me the opportunity to be in this film, I will not call myself an ambassadress, maybe I will call myself as a leader or some artist who is making a change for our country.”

Talag said she used a lot of her “imagination” to act out scenes she could not comprehend. The cast and crew were guided by a psychologist throughout the filming of the movie.