With the blurring of geographical boundaries, crime is generally networked today, and the article emphasised the need to combat the global threat of child abuse in a coordinated manner.
GS Paper 2: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
Reforming the POCSO Act is required to account for historical child sexual abuse reporting. Comment critically. (250 words)
Combat child exploitation on the internet.
- Sadly, online child sexual abuse is increasing exponentially and anonymously.
- Images and videos are freely accessible on social networking and related websites.
- There is a real child victim, real exploitation, and a crime behind every image or video.
- According to the WeProtect Global Alliance’s Global Threat Assessment Report 2021, child sexual exploitation and online abuse reached an all-time high during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- About the WeProtect Global Alliance: WeProtect Global Alliance is a global movement of over 200 governments, private sector companies, and civil society organisations working together to transform the global response to child sexual exploitation and abuse online.
- From 2019 to 2020, there is a 77% increase in child’self-generated’ sexual material, according to the Internet Watch Foundation.
Statistics from India
- Emerging risks: According to the 2011 Census, the country has 472 million children under the age of 18, with 225 million of them being girls. As digital penetration grows in India, the possibility of crime against children grows exponentially.
- 232 million of India’s 749 million internet users are children.
- The India Child Well-Being Report 2021 is a collaboration between the non-profit World Vision India and the think tank Poverty Learning Foundation. It ranks states based on factors affecting child well-being such as health, hygiene, safety, and education.
- While Kerala was ranked first among all states, Meghalaya was ranked last.
- According to Human Rights Watch’s 2017 report, “Everyone Blames Me,” survivors (of crime), particularly those from marginalised communities, still find it difficult to file police complaints.
- According to Interpol data, India reported over 24 lakh cases of online child sexual abuse between 2017 and 2018, with 80 percent of victims being girls under the age of 14.
- Non-traceability: Encrypted networks render child sexual abusers virtually untraceable.
- Additionally, the use of proxies/VPNs/peer-to-peer networks by perpetrators, as well as the use of fake IDs, makes tracking difficult.
- Search terms: Phrases such as ‘child porn,’ ‘kid porn,’ and ‘pornography,’ among others, aid in the spread of this scourge.
- Vicious cycle: The continuous production and distribution of child abuse material fuels the demand for new and more heinous images, perpetuating child abuse.
- Overburdened network: The unfortunate revelation is that this threat now has a presence in over 100 jurisdictions worldwide.
- No real-time data: A significant disadvantage is the lack of real-time actionable data for investigation due to territoriality and complications in data sharing across jurisdictions.
- Delays in international coordination: Mutual legal assistance suffers from delays.
Actions taken to combat online child abuse
- Social platform protocol: Social media platforms are developing protocols to detect and block such content in advance.
- Coordination: In recent years, the CBI has conducted large pan-India operations such as Operation Carbon in 2021 and Operation Megh Chakra in 2022.
- Operation Megh Chakra: The CBI raids 59 locations across 21 states in this operation to combat online child sex abuse material (CSAM).
- The operation targeted cloud storage, which was used by peddlers to distribute audio-visual material depicting illicit sexual activities with minors.
- The raids occurred after the agency registered two cases under relevant provisions of the IT Act, based on information from Interpol’s Crime Against Children (CAC) unit in Singapore, which had received it from New Zealand police.
- Operation Carbon: As part of this, 83 people were raided in 76 different locations across the country. Several people were detained.
- The UNICEF Draft Policy Guidance on Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Children is intended to promote children’s rights in government and private sector AI (artificial intelligence) policies and practises, as well as to raise awareness of how AI systems can uphold or undermine these rights.
- The United Nations International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) Guidelines on Child Online Protection: This is a comprehensive set of recommendations for children, parents and educators, industry, and policymakers on how to contribute to the development of a safe and empowering online environment for children and young people.
• The IT Act and the POCSO Act make online child sexual abuse a crime.
• Information Technology Act, 2000: Section 67B of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000 specifies harsh penalties for publishing, browsing, or transmitting child pornography in electronic form.
• POCSO Act: In 2012, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act (POCSO Act) was enacted to protect children from crimes such as sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and pornography.
o It establishes a strong legal framework by incorporating mechanisms for child-friendly reporting, evidence recording, investigation, and speedy trial of offences through designated special courts.
o The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights monitors the implementation of POCSO.
• Recent POCSO Amendment: It provides for harsh punishment, including the death penalty, for committing aggravated penetrative sexual assault on a child under the age of 18, both boys and girls.
o It also proposed protecting children from sexual offences during natural disasters.
• Online Complaint Management System: The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has established an online complaint management system that provides victims (or their representatives) with a confidential platform to report cases of child abuse and sexual assault.
It’s a multifaceted battle.
- Facets to confront: The fight to protect our children from online child sexual abuse includes criminalization of the offences, prevention, proactive detection, criminal investigation, limiting propagation, victim identification/restitution, and prosecution of offenders.
- Pursue offenders: If offenders can seamlessly collaborate in a heinous crime across more than 100 jurisdictions, law enforcement must also present a credible and coordinated response.
- Raising awareness: Any child who has access to the internet should be educated on what is and isn’t acceptable online behaviour.
- We must educate our children about the numerous deviant and dangerous situations they may encounter online.
Global Synergy is Required
- The upcoming Interpol general assembly in New Delhi (October 18-21) should place a laser-like focus on combating online child abuse as a top priority.
- Targeted scrutiny: In addition to blocking content and sharing information, criminal investigations are a top priority. The CBI has established a special cell to collect, collate, investigate, and disseminate information about online child sexual abuse content.
- As part of its commitment to combating this threat, CBI has joined Interpol’s International Child Sexual Exploitation database for assistance with child sexual abuse material.
- This database contains over 27 lakh images and has assisted in the identification of over 23,000 victims.
- According to Interpol’s secretary general, this database identifies seven victims on a daily basis.
Instead of getting bogged down by territorial considerations, legal asymmetry, and complex procedures, policymakers and law enforcement agencies must find solutions. As a responsible global community, we must put aside our differences and launch a truly massive global offensive against this threat.