Stealing Innocence: Child Pornography in the Digital Era!
AUTHOR- Siddhi Gokuldas Naik
DESIGNATION- Advocate and Currently Pursuing 1st Year LLM.
EMAIL ID- firstname.lastname@example.org
“Those bubbly eyes, that lovely smile.
No envy, no pride.
Only Innocence, because you are a child!”
Protection of children from abuse and safeguarding their rights is one of the major tasks listed on the docket to achieve millennium development goals. However, there are tons of children in the world being discriminated against, abused, and exploited. Alongside women, children too have been victims of offences like rape, murder, trafficking, forced labour and many more. Today in this digital era, another progressively predominant crime known as ‘Child Pornography’ has marked its danger. Years before what emerged as a problem has turned into an epidemic today.
WHAT IS CHILD PORNOGRAPHY?
Pornography or Porn is a representation created to trigger and provide sexual pleasure to the one who watches or reads it. Section 2(da) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (hereinafter “POCSO Act”) defines Child Pornography as the visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a child below the age of 18 years. They are photographed and filmed naked or with minimum clothes. The majority of them are forced to get involved in sexual acts or have complete sex. While doing the same they are asked to do it erotically with all the sounds and expressions. The entire picturisation is done very violently causing a lot of pain to the child because the perpetrators believe that this will attract maximum viewers.
INTERNET: A FUEL TO THE CRIME
The majority of experts have linked the increase of child porn usage to the advent of the internet. The Internet facilitates people to post and trade inappropriate content anonymously, concealing their intentions. In the digital space tools like cameras, smartphones, laptops, social media platforms, and cloud storage have contributed immensely to the proliferation of the child pornographic industry. The International Association of Internet Hotline Providers, registers approximately 9600 such cases per month from 29 countries, with the U.S.A topping the chart. In India, amid the Coronavirus lockdown, consumption has exceeded 95%. The online data monitoring websites stated that searches for words like “Teen Sex Videos”, “Sexy Child” and “Child Porn” are currently trending.
HOW ARE CHILDREN TRAPPED IN THIS MISERY?
Sexual crimes against children are on a rise with child rapists, pedophiles, and child pornography addicts shifting online. They target children through social media platforms, gain their trust, and later induce them to perform such acts through pictures and videos. Children engaged in prostitution are filmed by their customers or pimps and then the films are marketed. Also in certain cases, children are molested and filmed by their own relatives. The Canadian Centre for Child Protection records, 49% of minors in the world including toddlers and infants are trapped in the same.
LIVING A NIGHTMARE: IMPACT
“I believe, we live in this new brave world where there is not only an actual rape but also a digitized rape!” - Judge Emilio Garza.
The survivors go through a lot of physical, psychological, and emotional pain. They often encounter depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, eating and sleeping disorders, and substance abuse. Their sexuality can be distorted. Their self-esteem is lowered, with a change in their behaviour and difficulty to establish trustworthy relationships. They know that their photographs will be open on the internet for anyone to see at any time. Ultimately there is re-victimization leading to thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
“You are such a special girl, he’d say. That’s why you have your photos taken!” said a survivor when asked about her abuser.
“Every time I looked at it, it gave me immense sexual drive!” says a sexual offender who was sentenced to 8 years in prison in the USA for possessing child porn.
In October 2020, 41 people across Kerala were arrested for downloading and storing child porn.
A 30 years old man from Mumbai, was also booked by CBI for exploiting children and selling their sexually explicit images.
A mother was held guilty by the Kerala High Court for asking her children to paint on her naked body and posting on social media as a part of sex education.
LEGAL APPROACH IN INDIA
Section 293 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 considers the sale, distribution, exhibition, and circulation of any obscene material to any person below 21 years as a cognizable offence.
Section 14 of the POCSO Act, 2012 criminalizes the participation of children in sexual activities, storage of child porn, and using it for commercial purposes with 5 years imprisonment for the first offence and 7 years with a fine for the subsequent offence.
Section 67(B) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 also criminalizes the consumption and storage of child porn with 7 years imprisonment and a fine of 10 lakhs.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 and The Convention on Protection of Children against Sexual exploitation and Sexual Abuse, 2007 provides for the protection of children from all forms of abuse including pornography.
The Optional Protocol, 2000 of the United Nations mandates states to criminalize child pornography.
“It cannot be helped, it is as it should be, that the law is behind the times!”
The above statement by Justice Oliver Holmes holds true, especially when child pornography has exploded on the internet today, thereby challenging the law to keep pace with the ever-progressing technology.
No doubt India has a well-established legal and judicial system. However, the growing cases indicate that digital transformation in the system has been left out. Addition and revision in the laws should be made. A standard framework is the requirement of the hour. Digital forensics can be used to trace and apprehend online abusers.
This is an intense call for the whole digital chain, the digital suppliers, consumers, and the law enforcement agencies, to build such a culture where every child is safe. “We owe our children a beautiful life free from brutality and horror!”
1. https://afajournal.org/past-issues/2008/october/internet-fuels-child-sex-crimes/(last visited Feb.14, 2021).
3. Fatima A.S.v. State of Kerala,(2020) S.C.C. OnlineKer.2827(India).