The name of the eight-year-old who was kidnapped, sedated and gang-raped became the top trending search on pornographic sites two days after the incident. Anyone would have been deeply disturbed after reading such a news report from April 2018, amidst the reportage on the incident that unraveled in Kathua district, in Jammu and Kashmir. This news is enough to indicate the proliferating form of child sexual abuse in today’s digital era–through child pornography.
The Information Technology Act, 2000, had already established that child pornography is illegal, and the manufacturing, publishing, and sale or distribution of such pornographic material is punishable under different sections of this law.
Very recently, in July 2019, the amendment to the Protection Of Children From Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act was introduced, which for the first time, defined what constitutes as child pornography. It was described as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a child, including photography, video, digital or computer-generated image indistinguishable from an actual child. The bill also provides for fines and punishment to curb child pornography.
The amendments to the POCSO were welcomed by child rights organisations, activists and society in general. This reflects how our society ideologically condemns the act of children’s abuse in the form of pornography, no doubt! But, our actions and behavior patterns as a society doesn’t totally resonate with our ideologies. There is another darker side of society which makes people search for the name of the young girl from Kathua over pornographic sites. This side grooms young children for pornography through social video applications like Kwai. This side shows how pornographic content was found in Tiktok, a popular app, and how it had to banned and removed from app stores for some days. This list can go on and on, depicting the dark side of the ‘web’.
More than 1.5 lakh child rape cases are pending. The POCSO amendment is a good step. But at the same time, rehabilitation and prevention-level gaps must be addressed soon. A few solutions could be:
Internet and smartphones are an inseparable part of our social space today—whether it’s the urban or rural, rich or poor, young or older generation. ‘Virtual closeness’ has overcome physical distances. This also has made it easier to access pornographic material.
Taboos in Indian society restrict conversations on sex and sexuality-related topics. Children might not necessarily be comfortable talking about abuse due to this. Many cases don’t see the light of justice simply because they are not reported because of societal taboos. To conclude, every child needs to be safe. It’s their right to be protected. Child pornography is a rising threat. The amendment to POCSO is a good step at a policy level. What our society needs to ensure is the right implementation of policy, along with a long-term approach, to change mindsets.
Note: The author is part of the current batch of the Writer’s Training Program.
If you are a survivor, parent or guardian who wants to seek help for child sexual abuse, or know someone who might, you can dial 1098 for CHILDLINE (a 24-hour national helpline) or email them at email@example.com. You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.