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Covid-19 and rise in child sexual abuse online


The Global Threat Assessment report 2021, by WeProtect Global Alliance said COVID-19 had contributed to a significant spike in child sexual exploitation and abuse online.


GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Issues related to Children, Vulnerable Sections)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Global Threat Assessment report 2021
  2. Report: Most Online Content on Child Sexual Abuse from India
  3. What the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) said?
  4. What the India Child Protection Fund (ICPF) said?
  5. Child Abuse in India
  6. Convention on Rights of Child, 1989
  7. About Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012

Global Threat Assessment report 2021

  • WeProtect Global Alliance is a global movement of more than 200 governments, private sector companies and civil society organisations working together to transform the global response to child sexual exploitation and abuse online.
  • The report was a meta study that distils findings from multiple international studies on the issue.
  • The findings show that in the past two years, the reporting of child sexual exploitation and online abuse has reached its highest level.
  • The rise in child ‘self-generated’ sexual material is another trend that challenges the existing response – a 77% increase in child ‘self-generated’ sexual material from 2019 to 2020 was observed according to the report.
  • The report also featured a survey of technology companies that showed most were using tools to detect child sexual abuse material, but only 37% currently use tools to detect online grooming.
  • The report calls for prioritising prevention activities against abuse, creating safe online environments for children, besides calling on all with a role to protect children to work together to dramatically improve the response.

Report: Most Online Content on Child Sexual Abuse from India

  • In a global compilation of reports of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) found online, India stands right on top of the list, with 11.7% of the total reports (almost 20 lakh reports), followed by Pakistan, which contributes 6.8% of all reports (11.5 lakh reports) and Bangladesh comes in fourth with 5.5 lakh reports and a share of 3.3%.
  • In 2019, the Centre received a total of 1.68 crore reports of child sexual abuse material – reported by the members of the public and electronic service providers, principally comprising still pictures and videos depicting children in a clear sexual angle.

What the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) said?

  • During the pandemic, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) indicated 106% increase in reports of suspected child sexual exploitation to its global CyberTipline.
  • During the COVID-19 lockdown in India, there was a 95% rise in searches for child sexual abuse material, the NCMEC reported.
  • The NCMEC adds that the reports include geographic indicators related to the upload location of the child sexual abuse material, but country specific numbers may be impacted by proxies and anonymisers.
  • The NCMEC urges people to report CSAM found online across the world annually, on their online platform CyberTipline.

What the India Child Protection Fund (ICPF) said?

  • The India Child Protection Fund (ICPF) said in a statement that Traffic from India increased by 95% between March 24 and 26, as compared to average traffic before the lockdown.
  • The spike in consumption indicates millions of paedophiles, child rapists and child pornography addicts have migrated online, making the Internet extremely unsafe for children.
  • Without stringent action, this could result in a drastic rise in sexual crimes against children.
  • As children spend more time online during the lockdown, international agencies like Europol, the United Nations and ECPAT (End Child Prostitution and Trafficking) have reported that paedophiles and child pornography addicts have increased activity to target children online to ‘groom’ them — befriending them on social media, building an emotional connection and luring them to perform sexual activities through photos and videos.
  • It also pointed out there was an increase in demand for violent content involving children.
  • It demands an urgent crackdown on child pornography through a pan-India tracker through the use of artificial intelligence which can monitor hosting, sharing, viewing and downloading of child sexual abuse material and provide the information to the government agencies.

Child Abuse in India

  • While we have successfully brought in children-specific legislations such as the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 (POCSO) and the amended Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015, our performance in creating robust and reliable preventive response systems has been markedly poor.
  • The spate of brutal crimes against children demonstrates that our collective approach to child safety in schools remains ad hoc, laissez-faire and poorly monitored, highlighting the lack of both soft and hard preventive infrastructure.
  • Every six minutes, a child goes missing. More than 4.5 lakh children have been victims of trafficking, bought, sold for commercial and sexual exploitation. Over 50% children in India were subjected to one or another form of physical abuse. In 94.8 percent of cases, children were raped by someone known to them, according to data collected by the National Crime Records Bureau.

Convention on Rights of Child, 1989

  • According to the convention, any child below the age of 18 is called a child. Around 140 countries have signed the convention.
  • India is also a signatory. The convention sets out social, political, economic, civil and cultural rights of every child.
  • The rights include right to education, right to protection against physical abuse, right to rest and leisure.

About Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012

  • The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 was enacted to provide a robust legal framework for the protection of children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography, while safeguarding the interest of the child at every stage of the judicial process.
  • The framing of the Act seeks to put children first by making it easy to use by including mechanisms for child-friendly reporting, recording of evidence, investigation and speedy trial of offences through designated Special Courts.
  • The Act provides for a variety of offences under which an accused can be punished. It recognises forms of penetration other than penile-vaginal penetration and criminalises acts of immodesty against children too.

Offences under the act include:

  • Penetrative Sexual Assault: Insertion of penis/object/another body part in child’s vagina/urethra/anus/mouth, or asking the child to do so with them or some other person
  • Sexual Assault: When a person touches the child, or makes the child touch them or someone else
  • Sexual Harassment: passing sexually coloured remark, sexual gesture/noise, repeatedly following, flashing, etc.
  • Child Pornography
  • Aggravated Penetrative Sexual Assault/ Aggravated Sexual Assault
  • The act is gender-neutral for both children and for the accused.
  • With respect to pornography, the Act criminalises even watching or collection of pornographic content involving children.
  • The Act makes abetment of child sexual abuse an offence.

-Source: The Hindu

November 2023