RISE OF ONLINE CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE DURING LOCKDOWN

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This article has been written by Nandini Srivastava of Manipal University Jaipur. This article has been curated by Himanshu Raj of Chanakya National Law University, Patna

“When you feel caught in the web of childhood abuse, find words to describe it. Write them, Say them. Express them. In safe places, with safe people.”- Jeanne McElvaney

In child sexual abuse, an adult or an older child forces, manipulates or deceives the child to form a sexual relationship with him. Sexual abuse can be in form of physical or non- physical contact or both. Physical contact includes penetration (penile – vaginal, anal sex, oral sex) and non – penetration (kissing, rubbing, touching). Non – contact sexual activities include encouraging the child to behave in a sexual manner, making them watch indecent sexual content and recording their indecent pictures. 

This crime has been prevalent in India and other countries since a long period of time. Over the years, due to technological advancement its mode and accessibility of the offender has increased manifold. Earlier the people who were in position of power or were in a fiduciary relationship with the child as well the parents were the offenders. It was done offline, mostly through physical contact. Today, the internet has changed everything. Along with opening a gateway of opportunities, it has also opened a gateway for criminals. People under the veil of technology and fake usernames are acting in the most inhumane way. Person living within 2 kilometers and a person living 2000 kilometers is equally dangerous. This online platform has led to an increase in child sexual abuse, most commonly known as ‘Online child sexual abuse’ or ‘Cyber – molestation’. In this, the abuser may abuse through physical or non- physical contact.   The way through which online child sexual abuse is practiced is as follows:

  • Online grooming – In this, the abuser tries to form a relationship with the child through various social networking sites so that he can abuse them later on. The offender very carefully selects his target. The abuser usually prefers a child whose account is public and has constantly posted about depression, loneliness and family issues so that he could use all this available information to form an emotional bond with the child. These situations also ensure that the child will not speak about their relationship to their parents or a trusted adult. Once the child is emotionally involved, the abuser either forces the child to meet offline or send sexual pictures or videos. 
  • Live streaming – This occurs when a child is coerced to engage in a sexual act or be subject to sexual abuse in front of web camera for the purpose of gratification of the abuser. The abuse, in certain cases might even circulate the same through internet to other people either for money or otherwise. 

India has enacted various legal frameworks to deal with this ordeal. The laws are mentioned as follows:

Section 67B of the Information Technology Act, 2000: 

Anyone who either publishes or circulates any content in electronic form which depicts a child being involved in a sexual act or conduct or causes any other person to do the same is guilty of child sexual abuse. Any person who creates, collects, seek, browse, download, promote, advertise, exchange or distribute any image or text of obscene, indecent or sexual nature involving children will be prosecuted under this offence. A person is an offender if he cultivates an online relationship with a child to abuse him sexually or act in a way which might offend a reasonable adult using the computer or facilitates online child abuse will be convicted under this Section. Whoever records electronically his own abuse or of other to show it to children then he shall be punished under this Section. In case of first conviction, the imprisonment shall extend to five years and the offender will be liable to pay amount up to 10 lakh Rupees. In case of second conviction, imprisonment will extend up to 7 years and fine up to 10 lakh. 

Section 13 of the POSCO Act, 2012: 

Whoever uses child in any form of media for the purpose of sexual gratification will be punished for using child for pornographic purposes. This section prohibits representation of sexual organs of the children, indecent or obscene representation of children and representation of child either in penetrative or non- penetrative way in a real or stimulated sexual activity. The person found guilty will be punished. If it is his first conviction then his term of imprisonment will extend to 5 years but in situations of second conviction the term shall extend to 7 years. In both the scenarios, the offender will be liable to pay compensation. 

Section 11 of the POSCO Act, 2012:

A person is said to sexually harass a child when:

  1. He shows him any object either in form or media for pornographic purpose
  2. When he constantly follows, watches or contacts the child either directly or through electronic means or any other way
  3. “threatens to use, in any form of media, a real or fabricated depiction through electronic, film or digital or any other mode, of any part of the body of the child or the involvement of the child in a sexual act;” 
  4. “Entices a child for pornographic purposes or gives gratification therefore.” 

The offender will be punished with imprisonment that will extend to 3 years and will be liable to pay fine. With lockdown imposed in every part of the world and people trapped inside their homes, the cases of online child sexual abuse has escalated. 

Conclusion

It is vital to understand that both online as well as offline child sexual abuse is equally heinous and no community is abuse – free. Children in every community whether rich or poor face this abuse. Some children tell their parents while some do not. To ensure that child speaks up about this issue, it is important that parents provide a supportive, comfortable and safe environment. It is necessary that parents observe their child’s mood before and after spending time with others. Other than this, the law protectors need to bridge the gap between law enactment and its proper implementation. They should perform their duties diligently and ensure warm and healthy environment for both parents and the children. The media also needs to be sensitive about the matters related to this. Rather than making it sensational news, it would be preferable to keep it private so that in future no hesitates to report any related crime due to fear of public humiliation. 

Let us all come together and fight to end this evil. 

 

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