The Adhoc Committee of the Rajya instituted by Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu has made 40 far-reaching recommendations to prevent sexual abuse of children and to contain access to and transmission of child pornography content on social media. The report of the Committee was presented by the Chairman of the Committee Jai Ram Ramesh to Naidu. Expressing concern over the seriousness of the prevalence of the horrific social evil of child pornography, the Committee has recommended important amendments to the Protection of Children From Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and the Information Technology Act, 2000 besides technological, institutional, social and educational measures and state-level initiatives to address the alarming issue of pornography on social media and its effects on children and the society as a whole. Forty recommendations have been made by the Adhoc Committee to deal with the issue. On this edition of The Big Picture, we will analyse the impact of child pornography on children and society and how to deal with the issue.
What is Child Pornography?
According to the new definition (2019), child pornography is "any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a child which includes a photograph, video, digital or computer-generated image indistinguishable from an actual child and an image created, adapted or modified but appear to depict a child".
Child pornography is any kind of representation of sexually explicit or obscene images of a minor under 18 years old.
The Oxford Dictionary defines Pornography as “printed or visual material containing explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity intended to stimulate sexual excitement”. Further, the Law Lexicon defines Pornography as “material that depicts erotic behaviour and is intended to cause sexual excitement.”
As per the Article 9 of the Cyber Crime Convention, 2001, child pornography includes: “pornographic material that visually depicts: a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct and a person appearing to be a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.”
In recent years, the advent of smart phones has revolutionized the production and distribution of sexualized videos and images all over the world.
When an adult produces or distributes a sexual image of a child, it’s usually called “child porn”.
Child pornography is a criminal offence as (among other reasons) children cannot legally give consent.
Once content (images, videos) have been shared, they have a perpetual life on the net, maintaining the victim’s experience of abuse.
Child abuse in India:
According to a 2012 study by the World Health Organization (WHO), around 18 percent of girls and 8 percent of boys worldwide have experienced sexual abuse.
As per the data of the National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB), a total of 48,338 child rape cases were recorded from 2001 to 2011. These figures are under-reported as the majority of child rape cases are not reported to the police.
India saw an increase of 336 percent of child rape cases from 2,113 cases in 2001 to 7,112 cases in 2011.
As per the census of 2011, there are 444 million children in India under the age of 18 years and out of every two children in India abused one way another.
About nine of 10 rapes and sexual assaults are carried out by people known to the victim.
A survey conducted by Microsoft Corporation in 2012, across 25 countries ranked India third in the number of online bullying cases reported.
In 2015, 94 instances of child pornography were reported, up 135% from 2014.
As per 2016 Norton Cyber-security Insights Report, 51 percent of parents around the world see online bullying as more likely than being bullied at school or work (49%).
Impact of Child Abuse:
A threat to well-being: Children (boys & girls) who experience abuse often face a number of short and long-term negative consequences for their mental, physical, sexual, and reproductive health and well-being.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorders: They face higher risks of lifetime diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, externalizing symptoms, sleep disorders, and having thoughts of suicide and self-harm.
Social isolation & discrimination: Such children generally face discriminatory behavior and social isolation which negatively impacts their personality and self-confidence.
Barrier to education: Such social isolation and discrimination hamper their education and other developmental opportunities.
How Indian Constitution protects its ‘children’?
The Constitution of India recognizes children as equal right holder and grants the highest priority for their protection and well-being.
India is also signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and accordingly has a strong legal framework to protect children. The major protection under the law are as given below:
Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act 1994: It prohibit prenatal diagnostic techniques for the determination of the sex of the fetus leading to female feticide.
Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act 2005: It provides for the constitution of a National Commission and State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights and Children's Courts for providing a speedy trial of offences against children or of violation of child rights and other related matters.
Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006: It prohibits solemnization of child marriage.
Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009: It prohibits the detention of children till they complete elementary education (i.e., class 8).
Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015: The Act provides for strengthened provisions for both children in need of care and protection and children in conflict with the law.
Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016: It provides for stricter punishments for violations.
What are the major recommendations of the committee?
The Committee has broadly sought to address two main issues:
access of children to pornographic material on social media
circulation of pornographic material on social media in which children are abused
The major recommendations of the Committee has given as under:
The Committee has recommended some important amendments to the POCSO Act, 2012 and the IT Act, 2000 with corresponding changes to be carried out in the Indian Penal Code.
POCSO Act, 2012:
Advocating or counseling sexual activities with a person under the age of 18 years is made an offence under the Act;
A Code of Conduct for intermediaries (online platforms) for maintaining child safety online, ensuring age appropriate content and curbing use of children for pornographic purposes;
School management should be responsible for safety of children within schools, transportation services and any other programmes.
National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal shall be designated as the national portal under reporting requirements in POCSO Act in case of electronic material.
IT Act, 2000:
A new section be included in the IT Act 2000, providing for punitive measures for those providing pornographic access to children and also those who access, produce or transmit Child Sexual Abuse Material(CSAM);
Union Government shall be empowered through its designated authority to block and/or prohibit all websites/intermediaries that carry child sexual abuse material.
Law enforcement agencies be permitted to brake end to end encryption to trace distributors of child pornography.
Ministry of Electronics and IT and Ministry of Home Affairs shall coordinate with Blockchain analysis companies to trace identities of users engaging in crypto currency transactions to purchase child pornography online.
Online payment portals and credit cards be prohibited from processing payments for any pornographic website.
All social media platforms should be mandated with minimum essential technologies to detect Child Sexual Abuse Material besides regular reporting to law enforcement agencies in the country.
An upgraded and technologically empowered National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) to be designated as the nodal agency to deal with the issue of child pornography.
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shall mandatorily record and report annually cases of child pornography of all kinds.
Social and Educational measures:
Ministries of Women and Child Development and Information and Broadcasting shall launch campaigns for greater awareness among parents to recognize early signs of child abuse, online risks and improving online safety for their child.
Schools shall undertake training programmes for parents to aware them of hazards for children of free access to smart phones, internet at an early age.
State level implementation:
Each State and Union Territory shall have empowered State Commission for the Protection for Child Rights.
E-safety Commissioners be appointed to ensure implementation of social media and website guidelines relating to removal of pornographic content, age verification, issuing warnings etc.
India being one the youngest nations in the world has a large population of Children to account for. There is various form of exploitation that a child of tender age could meet with but sexual exploitation is the more severe one as it leaves a deep and mammoth impact on the child for the rest of the life, so laws should be framed in accordance so that this problem can be tackle out. The present technology needs to be improved to churn out child pornography from the internet. Moreover, the law enforcement agencies, must evolve to meet the needs of the society and protect the interests of the children.