|Trigger Warning: The following blog contains information on sexual and physical violence which some readers may find disturbing.
*In the article, a child means a person under the age of 18.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way in which we interact with our community. People are now spending enormous amounts of time online. However, this transition has resulted in a worldwide surge in newer forms of internet crimes specifically targeting children.
With the loss of job opportunities and ample amount of time at hand, perpetrators around the world are finding new opportunities to make money by victimising children in their own families, neighbourhood and on various online platforms. While numerous countries have taken cognizance of the increase in child sexual abuse material (CSAM) available on the internet, it is pertinent to understand how the Indian law is protecting children and youngsters from becoming the victims to child sexual abuse material.
Even before the coronavirus outbreak, India was one of the forerunners in providing online content on child sexual abuse to the entire world. The pandemic has introduced newer ways to facilitate the filming and distribution of CSAM.
Zoom-bombing has been identified as the newest technique for distributing CSAM through video conferencing platforms. To perform this act, an unknown person enters a video conference, usually in meetings having open access and shares sexually explicit material featuring children and adults through the option of “screen-sharing”.
Under Indian law, sharing such content on an online platform is an offence punishable under the Indian Technology Act, 2000. Any person who publishes or transmits sexually explicit content showing children or adults may be punished with imprisonment for up to five years and a fine of ten lakh rupees. A person will be punished under this provision, if they intentionally show or share any sexully explicit content with children while attending a video conference (for example an online class) or on any other online platform (for example social media or messaging platforms like Facebook).
Cyber grooming is a technique used by predators to befriend or form an emotional connection with children on messaging platforms, social media and online gaming platforms. This connection is then used to solicit sexual favours from children like asking for pictures or videos showing the child’s private parts, indulging in sexting (the sending or receiving of sexual words, pictures, or videos via technology, typically a mobile phone) and luring the children into physically meeting the perpetrator. These images and videos can be used by the perpetrator for coercing the child into making huge payments, doing more sexually explicit or otherwise illegal acts (also known as sextortion) or can be distributed on the internet causing mental and emotional distress to the child.
The Information Technology Act, 2000 (“IT Act”) punishes anyone who entices a child into an online relationship for a sexually explicit act or facilitates the abuse of children, online. The Indian law also acknowledges the situation where a predator records and shares their own sexually explicit pictures to the child. This crime is punishable with jail time up to five years and a fine of ten lakh rupees.
If a perpetrator entices a child to move from one place to another without the permission of their lawful guardian, it is a crime of kidnapping. The punishment is jail time up to seven years, under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 if the child is below the age of 18 in case of a girl and below the age of 16, in case of a boy.If anyone threatens the child to use any form of media showing any part of the body of the child or the involvement of the child in a sexual act, they will be punished for the crime of sexual harassment under the POCSO(Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012) law, with jail time for three years along with a fine.
In the majority of child sexual abuse cases, the perpetrator is known to the child through family relations, cohabitation or regular interactions10. Therefore, when children are not able to move out of the house, they might get locked up with their abusers. This may result in the sexual victimisation of children at or near their homes, which is repeated when this abuse is recorded and shared with the public through online or offline platforms. The pandemic has bolstered the fast-growing field of live-streaming of child sexual exploitation, which is increasingly taking place from the victims’ homes or houses of their neighbours3. This live-streaming can be facilitated by online groomers or the perpetrators who are known to the child.
It is a crime to film a child, for personal use or for distribution purposes, in any form of media, like television channels, the internet, another electronic or printed form. If it shows the sexual organs of the child, shows the child in an obscene light, or shows the engagement of a child in sexual acts (real or simulated) the punishment is jail time for up to 7 years along with fine11.
Any person who engages with the child in sexual acts for the purpose of filming will also be punished for the offence of sexual assault against the child12.
Self Generated Content
The distribution of indecent or sexually explicit content that was originally shared by a child with personal contact (via sex-ting or otherwise) is an offence under the IT Act. The punishment for this crime is jail time upto five years and a fine of rupees ten lakhs13.
Not only the creation or publication of CSAM but the browsing, downloading and possession of this content is also an offence under Indian law14.
Report Child Sexual Abuse Material!
While the world is embracing technology with open arms, the efficacy of the laws is getting hampered by the underreporting of cases related to online child sexual abuse. Therefore, knowledge of laws and active reporting by citizens is imperative to curb the malady of CSAM. If you receive any forward on WhatsApp, or you record the zoom meeting in which the sexually explicit is shared or you come across such material on any online platform, delete it from your device and either report the content to the platform or inform the police about the incident.
How to report CSAM?
|NATIONAL CYBER CRIME REPORTING PORTAL (ONLINE COMPLAINT)
||For filing a complaint online, you can visit https://cybercrime.gov.in/Default.aspx. The website also provides you with an option to file a complaint anonymously. You can also track the progress of your complaint on this portal. However, this option is available only for those who do not file an anonymous complaint.
||Cyber cells have been set up all over the country by the Crime Investigation Department. You can call or visit the office address of these cells to file a complaint. For example: Delhi has a cyber-cell in every district. The address and contact details of these cells are available at https://www.delhipolice.nic.in/HELPLINE1.html
||You can dial 100 or go to the nearest police station to file an FIR.
Kanika is the Content Manager at Nyaaya.