PEDOPHILIA vis-à-vis CHILD PORNOGRAPHY

By Mojahid Khan & Ashish Kumar

Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act, 2019 defines child pornography as “any apparent representation of sexually explicit material including a child’s photo, video, digital, or computer images is no different from that of children original and image, changed, or modified that appears to represent the child”. This definition has not only established what child pornography is but also by widen the scope of the same. With the advent of technology in India over the past decade, the prevalence of child pornography has increased. And as India has proven itself in the global arena, its deception of the internet, encryption and anonymity of the secure environment has enabled it to accelerate misinterpretation between privacy and transparency. Because as long as things are installed behind the computer, there is a technical error for safety and security. The Internet under the cover of “protection” exposes the exposure of inhumane behaviour. Every year hundreds of exploited pornographic videos, recorded without knowledge, are circulated by compulsive consumers over social media and messaging platforms. Further, Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) is a collection of explicit, abusive and illegal sexual data produced or referred to of a minor; it is intended to satisfy the cravings and desires of the individual or group. This ‘dark side’ of the internet is full of words ranging from “kiddo sex”, “teen pornography”, “sexy girl”, etc. 

Child Pornograhy: How Big is the Problem?

The report inculcated in accordance with the memorandum of understanding signed between the National Crime Records Bureau and the US-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), states that there have been more than 25,000 suspected child abuse material cases in just 5 months up until January 2020, with Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, UP, and West Bengal topping the list. According to the NCMEC’s CyberTipline Report, the centralised reporting system for the online exploitation of children by people or Internet Service Providers, they have received 1,987,430 such complaints by 2019. This information is merely an estimate of what actually occurred, as most cases of this nature go unreported due to ISP privacy policies and victims’ lack of information or resources. Google responded by regulating its keywords related to child pornography and including a message prohibiting viewers from continuing to search for such illicit content, but things remained the same. In fact, according to Google’s Anti-Human Trafficking System i.e., “Thorn”, India ranks first in the world in terms of online child sexual abuse imagery reports (about 3.88 million searches), illustrating the horrific truth of India’s underage cyber-porn turmoil.

Furthermore, COVID-19 is a global crisis in which all humankind’s principal alternative is survival and safety. Paedophiles, on the other hand, are exploiting the lockdown period as an avenue for their psychosomatic fulfillment of facetiae impulses. Since India went into a countrywide lockdown on March 23rd, data from the India Child Protection Fund, founded by Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s son, Bhuwan Ribhu in January 2020, with the help of Porn Hub (one of the world’s largest pornography websites), revealed a steep rise in child nudity related searches. Other data monitoring websites reported a sharp increase in demand for Child Sexual Abuse Material on adult pornographic websites, estimating that between November and December, an average of 5 million searches for child pornography were conducted on the public web, which had nearly doubled by the end of March and early April. Between the 24th and the 26th of March, traffic from India on Porn Hub climbed by 95 percent. “Millions of paedophiles have migrated online, making the Internet extremely dangerous for children and their wellbeing”, stated ICPF, while reviewing and stating these reports, because the more these predators find sexual contentment through electronic media, the greater their supply and production will be.

Statutory Laws and Standpoint of Indian Judiciary

According to Sections 292 and 293 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, any pornography in India is illegal. Separately, the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, and the recent amendment Act of 2019 highlights the scope of child pornography, its definition, storage, circulation, consumption, commercial purpose, and, most importantly, a signified punishment in a more comprehensive manner than the former. 

Indian Judiciary has always been vigilant about CSAM, several times to a stand to provide direction to curb it. In the case of George M. Geevarghese vs. State of Kerala, in which the accused was charged with violating Sections 67, 67A, and 67B of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act 2008, Sections 504 & 506 of the Indian Penal Code, and Sections 13 & 14 of the POCSO Act, 2012, for allegedly disseminating the nude images of a minor given to him in confidence. In Ravinder Singh vs. State of Himachal Pradesh, the accused was charged with violating Sections 67 and 67B of the IT Act after allegedly posting explicit pornographic content on his Facebook page, similar to how the accused in Akbar S/O Rehmat Ali vs. State of Rajasthan was charged with violating the same sections.

Conclusion

Needless to say, Indian laws address the issue of child pornography and its consequences, although they are not as comprehensive as they should be. With more than 100 POCSO pending cases in roughly 389 districts across India, the reports inculcated for a profound development of such laws revealed a somewhat casual approach of the judiciary over such a serious issue, with Uttar Pradesh leading the list, followed by West Bengal and Maharashtra. In light of this shortcoming, the Rajya Sabha’s Adhoc committee submitted a report on January 25, 2020, under the chairmanship of Mr Jairam Ramesh, recommending a more inclusive justice system based on a transparent and responsive interaction with Internet Service Providers. The report also ncluding timely proactive reporting, removal of CSAM from servers, and identification of the person demanding access to CSAM.

The fundamental problem with child pornography’s malignancy is the patchwork of laws that govern it. The law has changed multiple times over the years but it has not been enough to stop the situation because the institution of child pornography in India requires the validation of more than one law, ministry, country, and even server, making it a difficult difference to endure. As a result, a separate ministry must be established for the purpose’s non-chaotic operation.

The government must also be consistent about the severity of the problem and must take aggressive steps to address it by preparing and investigating a comprehensive overhaul. Reports from ISPs and social media applications, as well as search engines and servers, must be used to regulate the transmission of child sexual abuse material. Use of Virtual Private Networks (VPN) must be regulated as well. Although none of these things are conceivable without international cooperation in the form of agreements establishing a balanced approach to privacy and unsettling anonymity.

Child pornography should be included as a constitutive offence by the National Crime Records Bureau and local police authorities, with punishments that are appropriate, mandated, and, after a certain level of barbarity, even non-bailable. With more elaborate sexual academia, awareness programmes, and parental outreach, along with these statutory measures, the need to create a safer environment for children is essential. Their innocence and vulnerability must be diluted into an ethical and secure sense of wrong and right.

Mojahid Khan is a student of sophomore year at Faculty of Law, Integral University.  Ashish Kumar is middler year student of Law at Ajeenkya DY Patil University.

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