Child Pornography in India: A Peril of Digitalization

Children belong to the most vulnerable and gullible sect of the society which means they should be protected against all kinds of criminal activities and be provided with a guarded environment. Gone are the days when children were to be kept secured only from any physical danger like kidnapping on their way back from school. Today, they are not safe even under the roof of their house.

Digitalization has paved its way so strong and so fast into young minds that now it has become a significant part of their life. Children who have not even entered their teenage years can be seen active on social media platforms today. The fact that their tender minds can be easily molded at such a fragile age cannot be denied. However, parents, who are the first guides for their children, often forget to introduce them to the pros and cons of the digital world. Most of the parents being oblivious of the dangers posed in the cyber world remain unaware of the activities that their children might be involved in. This creates an unprotected digital environment for the children where they can be easily targeted by disturbing elements of the cyber world.

In this 21st century, one cannot even imagine the pace at which society is changing. Like every other aspect of society, crimes have also evolved with time. Today, nobody’s data is secure and privacy concerning online data has almost been done away with, thanks to hackers all around the world. A very easy target of such crimes is children. Since the feeble minds of children are exposed to the vast hustling and bustling space called the internet, their overall mental and social development takes place at a very early stage. Such a stage cannot be termed fit for judging what content is suitable for them and what content can be proved as dangerous to them. They get easily fascinated by the glittery outlook of social media where they can make new connections and have conversations with people living in another part of the world whom they barely know. The euphoria of having such chats with adults gives them a feeling of maturity and this is where the children become vulnerable to the gruesome face of this digital world. One of the most pathetic outcomes of digital exposure towards children is child pornography.

What is Child Pornography?

Child pornography means any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor, or someone who appears to be a minor.[1] The magnitude of the term is way more than it appears. With emerging digital technology and rise of the camera phone, teenagers today have endless opportunities to share their self-portraits with the world. What these children are unaware of is the ulterior motives of the people they have befriended on these social media platforms and are sharing their personal information with. Before they know, disturbing elements manipulate them to act according to their whims and fancies.

Anyone would think of a pedophile to be indulged in such a loathsome and abominable nature of the crime. But the truth is that the highly remunerative business of pornography has spread its roots in almost every part of the world. Young children are often lured or blackmailed by predators of child pornography to fulfill their unapparent motives. Sugar-coated conversations and emotional drama by the perpetrators lead to children having faith in them. They feel wanted and other factors, like neglect by parents or loneliness, aggravate such situations. This faith leads to uploading obscene pictures and videos on the demands of these felons. Young minds are not as far-sighted as someone of a mature age. Once entangled in such negativity, they seek a quick way out. Unable to confront such abuse, the victims sometimes commit suicide.

Indian Context

India too, like the rest of the world, faces the alarming issue of child pornography. The reach of the internet knows no bounds. Explicit content shown as advertisements on social media platforms is very easily accessible to children. Unwanted and unhealthy exposure is just a click away.

Children tend to imitate what they see. Sexual practices shown in pornography make them curious about their bodies. It cannot be denied that pornography today is nothing less than a fantasy world created where violent sexual intercourse is propagated. In most of such videos, women are shown to be forced into having sex and what seems to be the take away is that women have to be caused pain to receive maximum pleasure. This concept is one of the biggest factors behind normalizing non-consensual sex. Such ridiculous sex education that children seek to have from pornography leaves a huge imprint on their mind which shows sooner or later in the form of them being trapped by agencies into practicing the same in their real lives.

Cases involving sexual assault committed as well as put up on the internet by teenagers to seek revenge from their counterparts reflect the mindset of the youth today. As much as non-consensual sexual intercourse is a crime, so is the putting up of such information on the internet without consent. The most popular instance of non-consensual child pornography in India is the DPS MMS which took place in 2004,[2] where two students from a Delhi Public School made a pornographic clip together. The 17-year old children shot it on their smartphone which was about three minutes long and went viral and was eventually uploaded on the internet. The students admitted in multiple reports that they engaged in consensual sex and the making of the clip was consensual too. But the leaking of the clip and the widespread distribution was not. And thus, it was non-consensual pornography.

Legislative measures against Child Pornography in India

When it comes to India combating this menace of child pornography, various laws have been enacted against the same. Article 9 of the Cyber Crime Convention, 2001 states child pornography as: “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.” To prove the transmission of data, the Law of Evidence requires the due records and oral testimony which is not possible when the transmission and storing of the content is done digitally.[3] Thus, amendments to facilitate legal recognition for the electronic transmission of data were a must. The Information Act, 2000 includes cyber laws to provide for the legal sanctity to provide for all electronic records with the help of digital signatures.

The Information Technology Bill, 2008 which became an Amendment Act in February 2009, entailed many revolutionary changes for the existing cyber laws in India so that more and more cyber offenses could be covered under the Information Technology Act, 2000. Sections 67A to 67C inserted through the amendment provide for publishing and transmitting data electronically which contained sexually explicit content. These sections prescribed the modifications brought to the penalties and fine for transmitting obscene material electronically. Where the imprisonment period has been changed from three years to five years, the fine for the same has been increased from Rs. 1,00,000 to 5,00,000.

Section 67A: Provides for action against the publishing of sexually explicit material. Offenses like MMS attacks by those seeking revenge and video voyeurism were aimed essentially through this section. Imprisonment up to 5 years and a fine up to Rs. 10,00,000 is stated under this provision.[4]

Section 67B: Creating sexually explicit content in the form of images or advertisements or the promotion of such content involving children acting indecently or obscenely falls under this section. Abusing children online or depicting children having a sexual relationship online with other children also comes under this section. A maximum of 5 years of punishment with a fine of Rs. 10,00,000 is provided for the first conviction whereas, on a second conviction, the imprisonment increases to seven years along with a fine of Rs. 10,00,000.[5]

Section 67C: This section specifies for the retention of such data by the intermediaries for as long as prescribed and in the manner provided by the Central Government. Non-compliance to the same accounts for an imprisonment of up to three years or fine.[6]

The Indian Penal Code, 1860 also provides for laws against the selling or distribution of obscene objects to the minors. IPC Section 292 provides for the punishment of up to three years and a fine of up to Rs. 3,000 for anyone who attempts to do so.[7]

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act, 2019 defines child pornography as 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.[8] This Act protects children from offenses like sexual assault, harassment, and pornography. If any person uses a child for pornographic purposes, then they are liable for a punishment of at least 5 years which goes up as high as to life imprisonment if such pornographic purposes lead to sexual assault.[9]

Moreover, the Act even penalizes the storage of pornographic material for commercial purposes with a punishment of up to three years, or a fine, or both. In addition to these provisions, the Act also offers two other offenses regarding the storage of pornographic material involving children. These offenses are (i) failing to destroy, or delete, or report pornographic material involving a child, and (ii) transmitting, displaying, distributing such material except to report it.[10]

Challenges

Even though the laws have been made against this threat, there still arise innumerable challenges against the legislature as well as the judiciary.

  • Firstly, keeping control of child pornography on the internet is a very difficult task because of the multiple pathways that can be taken for the transmission of information. The basic structure of the internet is decentralized which means there’s no need for a central server for the transmission of data and thus, almost no restrictions can be put on the distribution of child pornography.
  • Child pornography is not a territorial phenomenon. It runs globally, reaching remote areas as well. Keeping a jurisdictional boundary for deciding over such offenses becomes highly difficult. Moreover, the origin of the circulation of content cannot be figured out easily which makes the investigation of child pornography a very tedious task.
  • To underestimate the offenders regarding the employment of measures suited for the avoidance of detection of such offenses is a mistake. The people involved have high technical expertise and experience in adopting security measures to remain hidden in their holes from where they operate such gruesome activities.
  • The amount of traffic that the internet faces today is well known by all. This traffic makes it highly difficult for the agencies to track the people who visit such child pornography sites regularly. These offenders themselves are aware of this fact that the chances of them being caught are negligible.
  • Last but not the least, the lack of proper implementation and regulation of stricter laws have made it possible for the pedophiles and the internet offenders commercializing child pornography to roam around the streets freely.

Preventive measures for Child Pornography

  • Parental control over the content that is being consumed by their children can play a marvelous role in protecting them from being manipulated by a stranger into doing or watching obscene activities.
  • Parents should spend more and more quality time with their children, knowing about them and their interests to make them feel wanted. This helps in avoiding insecurities that arise in young children due to a lack of attention at home. It also helps in breaking the ice between the children and the parents and strengthening their bond, making it easy for them to talk about anything and everything that they feel happening around themselves.
  • Proper sex education must be given both at home as well as at the school. The changes developing in their bodies must be discussed openly so that they don’t lookout for this information from unreliable sources.
  • The importance of consent must be inculcated in the children from the very beginning. They should know that everyone has a right to privacy and that must be respected at any cost.
  • The judgment of good touch and bad touch must be taught to children to avoid any stranger touching them inappropriately get away with it easily.
  • The government can play a major role in banning advertisements containing sexually explicit content that show up on many sites while surfing on the internet. Most of the time, the introduction of such content to the children is done through these accidental advertisements.

Conclusion

It is a misfortune that children today have to face the brunt of the digital world that we live in today. A safer environment both physically and virtually is necessary for them. It is not possible to completely obstruct the usage of the internet by children or keeping them away from building their social relations online on social media platforms. What can be avoided here is to share their photos which involve nudity as there are certain chances that such photos may be leaked. The most disheartening outcome of child pornography is the entrapping of small children who become the easy victims of serious sexual abuse. Sometimes these unfortunate children end up rotting on the streets after the purpose of their perpetrators has been fulfilled. Strong moral support for the survivors of such atrocity is crucial.

Today, India is under lockdown and people have all the time in the world to do numerous activities. According to a recent report by India Child Protection Fund (ICPF), an NGO, the consumption of content related to child pornography in India has spiked by 95% amid this lockdown.[11] This indicates how unsafe it is for the children to be active on the internet today. Until and unless there is a reformation of the mindsets of the people encouraging such heinous crimes, battling this menace is a difficult task. As responsible citizens, we must keep a watchful eye on whatever goes around us and report any strange activity or occurrence immediately to the concerned authorities. While stricter legislation and prosecution of the guilty is necessary, a check or the prohibition of such digital content that is publicized is also needed.


[1] POCSO (Amendment) Act, 2019

[2] PTI. DPS Students Suspended for Sexually Explicit MMS. Hindustan Times, Dec 28, 2004.

[3] Sections 118- 134. Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

[4] Section 67A. Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2009

[5] Section 67B. Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2009

[6] Section 67C. Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2009

[7] Section 292. Indian Penal Code, 1860

[8] POCSO (Amendment) Act, 2019

[9] Section 14. POCSO (Amendment) Act, 2019

[10] Section 15. POCSO (Amendment) Act, 2019

[11] Child Sexual Abuse Material in India. ICPF Report, April 13, 2020

Vasudha Chadha from Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies

“I dream of a world colored in the brightness of yellow and the tranquility of blue. Joy for me is the unconditional love of my pet dog. I see art, I appreciate it.”

Editor: Sanskriti Sood

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: