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RISE OF PEDOPHILES AMIDST THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK

Section: C

Category: Legal Essay

Paper Code: LE-BK-16

Page Number: 434 - 440

Date of Publication: February 10, 2021

Citation: Bulbul Kumari, Rise of Pedophiles amidst Coronavirus Outbreak, 1, AIJACLA, 434, 434-440, (2021).

Details Of Author(s):

Bulbul Kumari, Student, Dharmashastra National Law University, Jabalpur


ABSTRACT During the lockdown period, imposed due to the outbreak of COVID-19, utilization of the internet and popularity of various social media platforms increased at a significant height. Along with it, children across the globe were forced to stay back at home due to the closure of the educational institutions and in certain cases were made to suffer inhuman legacies of sexual harassment, violence, etc. Due to the increased use of the internet in such a period, instances of child pornography were also found to have increased. This particular legal essay focuses on the issue of pedophiles in India amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. KEYWORDS Children, COVID-19, Lockdown, Pornographic Contents, and Paedophiles

INTRODUCTION The whole world is fighting against the coronavirus pandemic. The scale and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic is rising day by day. Certain restrictions have been imposed on certain rights such as the imposition of quarantine or complete lockdown in the nation limiting the freedom of movement. The whole world is taking stringent steps to combat this outbreak. People are directed to stay indoors at their homes to fight against the coronavirus. The whole nation is at standstill due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and there is imposition of complete lockdown in the country to avert the spread of coronavirus. While a lot of facilities and services are at a virtual standstill, the rate of child sexual abuse has been on the rise. They are also exposing children to increased risk of violence- including maltreatment, gender-based violence, and sexual exploitation.[1]The complete lockdown of the nation to combat the outbreak of Coronavirus resulted in an increase in online activities by millions of pedophiles, child rapists, and child pornography addicts. This has resulted in the internet being extremely unsafe for our children. The Internet has become a tool for accessing pornographic contents which are harmful effects on society as they increase the incidents of sex crimes. The pervasive escalation of the virus has forced the children and the parents to spend maximum time on the internet. The India Child Protection Fund (ICPF) has found a steep rise in demand of searches like “child porn”, “sexy child” and “teen sex videos”.[2] Data from Pornhub also reveals that there has been an increase in the traffic by 95% between 24th and 26th March, 2020 as compared to their average traffic, pre-Coronavirus. The problem of child sexual abuse within society is an epidemic that virtually all children are at risk of abuse. International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) defines ‘Child Pornography’ as “means of depicting or promoting sexual abuse of a child, including print and/or audio, centered on sex acts or genital organs of children.[3] There has been a steep rise in demand for online Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM), which has made children more vulnerable to online pedophiles. As per the survey of the world vision, up to 85 million more girls and boys worldwide may be exposed to physical, sexual, or emotional violence over the three-month lockdown period.[4] The pedophiles and child pornography addicts are building an emotional connection with the children and luring them and threatening them to perform sexual activities through photos and videos. They record and store this content to distribute it, and use it to extort the child to commit further abuse and exploitation.[5] The demand for CSAM is higher in big cities like Kolkata, Siliguri, Howrah, Chandigarh, Guwahati, Indore, Bhubaneswar, and Chennai.[6] The demand for generic child pornography content is higher in cities like Bhubaneswar and Chennai. It is found out that the overall demand for child pornography is was an average of 5 million per month in 100 cities on the public web during December 2019, which is now rising.[7]There has been a 200% spurt in demand for violent child abuse content since December 2019.[8]

Legal Framework and Judicial approach Concerning Child Pornography in India The advancement in technology and the easy access to the internet across the country has complicated the process of keeping a check on increasing mal-practices which made it necessary to have zero tolerance in child pornography laws. This practice not only puts the children's life at risk but also violating the right to live with dignity which is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

POSCO Act, 2012 The POCSO (Amendment) Act 2019, the most progressive law of the Indian government to protect all children who are under the age of 18 years, defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a child including photographs, video, digital, or computer-generated image indistinguishable from an actual child.[9]The enlarged definition has helped to cover a wider aspect of a new trend of a variety of offenses under which an accused can be punished.

Information Technology Act, 2000 The IT Act, 2000 contains the provisions related to cyber pornography and specifically prohibited child pornography under Section 67B. The punishment for the same is prescribed under Section 67A and 67B of the IT Act. Punishment for the first conviction is imprisonment for a maximum of five years and a fine of ten lakh rupees and in the event of subsequent conviction with imprisonment of seven years and a fine of ten lakh rupees. In the landmark case of Jan Hit Manch& Ors. v. The Union of India[10], a PIL was filed to seek a blanket ban on pornographic websites under Section 67B of the IT Act.

Indian Penal Code, 1860 Under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), obscenity has been made a separate offense under Section 292, and pornography is considered as a part of it and so prohibits prohibition and transmission of obscene material. This also provided stringent measures to curb the crime where the punishment may extend to death in case of aggravated sexual assault. In the case of KamleshVaswani vs. Union of India and others[11], a writ petition was filed to block pornographic websites and to restrict both private and public access to them on the grounds of ‘obscenity’ under section 292, 293, and 294 of IPC.

International Legal Frameworks The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) This convention protects the children from any forms of sexual exploitation including the exploitation of children in pornographic acts. Article 6(1) of the UNCRC states that all children have the inherent right to survive and develop. The state must ensure maximum care, their development needs, protection needs, and social integration by adopting a child-friendly approach in the best interest of the children.

The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) Through various studies, it has been found out that child pornography is an organized crime. This United Nations Treaty is against all forms of organized crimes. This treaty aims to criminalize the organized crimes such as acts involving child sexual abuse. This shows that the protection and welfare of children is universally recognized as they hold the future of our country. India has tied up with the US-based private non-profit organization National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) which uses software to track child pornography content online to get the details like the IP address of the device used. Over 25,000 cases of suspected child pornography material were uploaded across social media in India in the last five months as per the report of NCMEC in the US with the National Crime Records Bureau.[12]

STEPS TAKEN TO COMBAT CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE India is not an exception in this increasing trend of sexual violence in this pandemic and has been considered as the greatest source of more online child pornography as compared to any other country. Internet Service providers have been asked in the last few years to ban as many websites promoting child porn till the centralized mechanism is built in India to dynamically monitor websites/URLs containing online CSAM. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has also set up an Online Child Sexual Abuse Exploitation (OCSAE) Prevention and Investigation Unit at Delhi under its special Crime Zone to collect, collate and disseminate information regarding publication, transmission, creation, distribution of information relating to online child sexual abuse. Many web portals are also there to lodge a complaint against child pornography and sexual abuse cases like cybercrime.gov.in launched by Home Ministry, CCPWC, and Operation Blackface in Maharashtra etc. However, many NGOs like RAHI Foundation, Amnesty International, Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE), etc. have taken tremendous steps to combat violence against women and children. A Delhi-based NGO with the ‘The Rakshin Project’ initiating a free online session that will be open to prevent all forms of child sexual abuse and gender-based violence. Furthermore, an NGO Child Rights and You (CRY) also conducted a survey with Forum for Learning and Action with Innovation and Rigour (FLAIR) which revealed that 30% of the adolescents had a negative experience on the internet. Many of the instances even goes unreported. The schools and colleges are physically at standstill. The classes are happening over various video conferencing apps such as ‘Zoom’. This has put the children at high risk to become victims of child sexual abuse. In a recent case of Harsh Chugh vs. Union of India[13], the writ petition was filed in Supreme Court to deal with the issue of ‘zoo bombing’. It means that when an unauthorized person or stranger joins a Zoom meeting/chat session and causes disorder by saying offensive things and even photo bombing the meeting by sharing pornographic and/or hate images. These incidents have caused great risk to the children. In Re, (2018) 17 SCC 79[14], the Supreme Court has imposed costs of Rs 1 lakh on each leading corporation such as Google, Whatsapp, Yahoo, and Microsoft who were failed to submit their stand on taking steps to prohibit the circulation of child porn videos. The Supreme Court with the Bench of CJI SA Bobde, AS Bopanna, and Hrishikesh Roy in response to the PIL filed by the BachpanBachaoAndolan for framing for the rescue and rehabilitation of the children amid the COVID-19 pandemic mulled over forming a committee to look into the issue.[15] The bench asked if private establishments and employers can also be registered formally to protect the children from the onslaught of abuse and violence. This can help in restricting the employment of children at cheap labor in response to the deep agrarian crisis and economic conditions of the country.

The Way Forward Due to the increasing rate of child pornography during the lockdown, there is a need to take immediate steps to stop the spread and proliferation of child pornography and for its complete elimination. The complete onus should be given to internet service providers (ISPs) by giving a code of conduct to remove all CSAM in any electronic form or containing sexually explicit acts. Social media should also have stricter and watertight mechanisms for age verification to restrict the involvement of underage children who are more prone to be befriended by the influencer to perform sexual activities. The parliamentary panel has also given its recommendation that the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) should be given more responsibilities to include technology, cyber policing, and prosecution.[16] A special cell should be created in all the states in the cyber dome to break the chain of child abusers who trade with obscene materials. A similar call has also been created in Kerala who uses encrypted apps such as telegram and gathered the IP address of around 150 people.[17] The shift of classrooms to online mode has kept the student engaged with online resources more than before which has now emerged as a potential risk of online abuse. The online platform should be provided to the students where they can be given mental counseling regularly. Increasing the manpower that is having technical knowledge and is experts in internet pornography from the private sector can also help in close monitoring of online activities. There has been an explosion of Internet usage and the number of internet users has exceeded 500 million and is likely to have reached 627 million in 2019 as predicted Kantar IMRB ICUBE report.[18]We, therefore, need to have internet censorship as this explosion has opened the door to social evils to prevent the children from avail contents such as pornography. In the case of State of U.P. v Lalai Singh Yadav,[19] the court ordered that between free speech and public order, the latter should be given precedence. Complete restraint is impossible but an attempt should be made not to free it completely.

CONCLUSION There is an alarming rise in the number of pedophiles and an increase in the number of child sexual abuse has put the children worldwide at extraordinary risk. In the year 2019, twitter took down 244,188 unique accounts for sharing child pornography, WhatsApp blocked 130,000 accounts and Instagram has removed 1.2 million child porn images.[20]Despite having stringent laws and taking such steps, the child sexual abuse is increasing. We must strive to start reporting such incidents so that cyber-crimes do not go unreported anymore.


[1] Joint Leaders' statement - Violence against children: A hidden crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, World Health, (Sep. 2020, 28, 09:23 AM), https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/08-04-2020-joint-leader-s-statement---violence-against-children-a-hidden-crisis-of-the-covid-19-pandemic. [2] Online search for child pornography escalates after lockdown in India, Deccan Herald, (Sep. 2020, 29, 05:34 PM), https://www.deccanherald.com/national/online-search-for-child-pornography-escalates-after-lockdown-in-india-827602.html. [3] Sexual Abuse of Children on the Internet: a new challenge for Interpol, UNESCO Digital Library, (Sep. 2020, 30, 03:45 PM), https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000114734. [4] COVID-19 Aftershocks: A Perfect Storm, World Vision International, (Oct. 2020, 02, 07:25 PM), https://www.wvi.org/publications/report/coronavirus-health-crisis/covid-19-aftershocks-perfect-storm. [5] Child Sexual Abuse Material in India, Report on Demand for Child Pornography & Pilot Deterrence using Artificial Intelligence, India Child Protection Fund, (Oct. 2020, 02, 10:11 PM), https://7d53df5d-623a-479f-89b5-c88a0757a721.filesusr.com/ugd/aeb656_0247bfeedc04490b8e44e4fba71e3ad7.pdf. [6] Ibid. [7] Demand for child pornography in India spiked since lockdown: ICPF, Economics Times, (Oct. 2020, 04, 09:45 AM), https://ciso.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/demand-for-child-pornography-in-india-spiked-since-lockdown-icpf/75127959. [8] In-built automated filtering only for child porn: MeitY’s draft rules , The Economics Times, (Oct. 2020, 04, 07:25 PM), https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/ites/in-built-automated-filtering-only-for-child-porn-meitys-draft-rules/articleshow/74091469.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst. [9] The Protection of Children From Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act, 2019. [10] Janhit Manch v. State of Maharashtra, (2019) 2 SCC 505. [11] Kamlesh Vaswani v. Union of India, (2014) 6 SCC 705. [12] US alert for India: 25,000 child porn cases uploaded in five months, The Indian Express, (Oct. 2020, 05, 10:00 AM), https://indianexpress.com/article/india/child-pornography-india-ncmec-us-report-6238603/lite/. [13] Harsh Chugh v. Union of India. [14] In Re, (2018) 17 SCC 79. [15] Supreme Court mulls forming Committee to check on the issue of Child Trafficking for Child Labour in private establishments, Bar and Bench, (Oct. 2020, 07, 11:45 AM), https://www.barandbench.com/news/litigation/sc-mulls-forming-committee-check-on-child-trafficking-child-labour-private-establishments. [16] Panel suggests steps to curb child porn, The Hindu, (Oct. 2020, 08, 12:25 PM), https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/panel-suggests-steps-to-curb-child-porn/article30756641.ece/amp/. [17] Kerala cops collect IP addresses of 150 people who downloaded child porn amid lockdown, The Indian Express, (Oct. 2020, 09, 01:05 PM), https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/kerala/2020/apr/17/kerala-cops-collect-ip-addresses-of-150-people-who-downloaded-child-porn-amid-lockdown-2131516.amp. [18] India's internet base crosses 500 million mark, driven by Rural India, Live Mint, (Oct. 2020, 11, 8:23 PM), https://www.livemint.com/industry/telecom/internet-users-exceed-500-million-rural-india-driving-growth-report-1552300847307.html. [19] State of U.P. v. Lalai Singh Yadav, (1977 AIR 202). [20] The dark web of child porn, India today, (Oct. 2020, 12, 08:10 PM), https://www.indiatoday.in/amp/magazine/editor-s-note/story/20200302-from-the-editor-in-chief-1648214-2020-02-2.

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