Child Molesters
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This article has been written by Tarannum Vashisht, a student of Rajiv Gandhi National University Of Law, Punjab. This article deals with the reasons which motivate a person to engage in Child Pornography, the impact this has on multiple lives, and some measures on resolving this menace.

Introduction

Why do people commit this heinous offence of child pornography? How far do child pornographers and people involved in actual sexual harassment differ? Will the introduction of any regulation regarding this would be any benefit to curb this menace? Or is there something more that can be done? This article seeks to primarily deal with these questions.

Child Pornography

Child Pornography is a branch of Pornography showcasing children, to arouse the sexual desires of the viewers. This branch often shows violent picturisation of children and adolescents who are in pain throughout. Watching these children in pain has been known by the viewers to be the “best” part of these videos.

This industry photographs children in minimum or no clothes, then record the voices of children making sexual sounds, and/or, most importantly, record these children getting involved in sexual activities or full-fledged sex.

The Internet has become the hub of child pornography. This is due to its easy availability and accessibility. Also, the weak mechanism of tracing these offenders and the frail laws regarding the same in India, aggravate the problem.

Why Do People Get Involved In Child Pornography?

Every week there is news of a known figure downloading a child pornography video. What prompts these adults into doing so? Is there some psychological dysfunction or just a bunch of erotic desires? 

According to a study on prevalence and characteristics of sexual functioning among sexually experienced middle to late adolescents, there has been an increasing number of men between the ages of 18-21, getting involved in child pornography. The major reason attributed to this is sexual dysfunction, that is, they are unable to maintain erections and achieve orgasms. The reasons are reportedly different for older men. 

Various reasons have been attributed to adults getting involved in child pornography. The primary one is the viewer being a pedophile, hebephile, or ephebophile. These people have strong sexual attraction towards children of different age groups. Interestingly, many offenders regard this as their “love” for children. The majority of them don’t see any reason as to why society is not accepting this kind of love towards children.

Children and adolescents themselves view child pornography, out of curiosity, and for fantasizing. Another reason can be a monetary benefit for the sale of child pornographic material.

Popularity Of Internet Porn

More than 45 million photos and videos of child pornography have been reported this year, with the numbers rising ever since the lockdown in India. This figure has doubled from the previous years. This is both shocking and disappointing. This has happened primarily because of the following reasons-

  1. The identity of the viewer and the pornographer remains anomalous, hence there is no fear of breaking societal obligations. 
  2. Easy availability on the internet, due to weakness in enforcement agencies of law. 
  3. The curiosity of people trying something new.
  4. There is easy affordability of these videos.

Child Molesters and Child Pornographers

The primary question that disturbs psychologists working on child pornography is, what is the risk of pornographers getting involved in actual sexual molestation of children?

According to a recent study, most of the people involved in child pornography are also involved in the sexual molestation of children. This has been certified by a study published in the Journal of Family Violence (Vol. 24, No. 3). This study was conducted on 155 men who were child pornographers. Surprisingly, at the end of the study, 84% of the subjects admitted that they had molested a child at least once in their lifetime.

However, most of the earlier studies point to the fact that there is no direct link between child pornographers and molesters, in fact, there are very few chances of pornographers becoming molesters. Hence the society is comparatively at low risk from them. Therefore though there is an abundance of collected data in this arena, yet nothing concrete can be said. Hence there is a need for increased research in this arena. 

Impact Of Growing Popularity Of Child Pornography

The growing popularity of child pornography, attributed to various reasons has the following impacts-

  1. Porn viewing has become a near-universal phenomenon among young men, all over the world. 
  2. Increasing sexual dysfunction among young men.
  3. There has been an increase in the copulatory impotence due to an increasing obsession with porn viewing.
  4. The evolutionary structure of the brain has gone haywire, as the brain is a highly elastic organ. This can be understood by the famous taxi driver study. 
  5. Young people become more prone to imitate risky sexual practices and are open to sexual objectification.
  6. Increasing sexualisation of the cultural environment. 
  7. Deviation from safe sexual practices by young people.
  8. Anxiety if there is non-conformance to the accepted sexual activities. 
  9. There has been increased objectification of women.
  10. Stronger belief in gender stereotypes and inequality. 
  11. Increase in unsafe sexual practices, like involving in sex with multiple partners.
  12. Medical and psychological issues of children involved in child pornography.
  13. The perpetuation of sexual violence against women.
  14. Increase in the rape culture, especially the rape of young girls.
  15. Development of sexual disorders in young children.
  16. Effect on the mental well being of young minds.
  17. Motivation in young minds for distribution of sexually exposing images of themselves, which would further lead to the distribution of these images without consent.
  18. Young children often become vulnerable to sexual abuse, cyberbullying, and sexual exploitation.

Laws in India

In India, there has particularly been a growing menace of child abuse and child pornography.

India has one of the world’s largest children’s population- 2011 census data shows that India has a population of 472 million children under the age of eighteen. Protection of child rights in India is provided to the people of India, via Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. This is also necessary as India is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children. The act already in place to deal with this situation in India is the Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) act.

On 22 May 2012, the Indian Parliament passed the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Bill, 2011 on child sexual exploitation, into an Act. The rules that the government has formulated in accordance with the law were also notified in November 2012, and the law has become ready for implementation. Many calls for tougher laws have been made. 

This act was enacted to provide a robust legal framework to protect children from sexual assault, sexual harassment, and pornography offences while safeguarding the child’s interest at every stage of the court process.

The framing of the Act seeks to place children first by making it easy to use by including mechanisms for child-friendly reporting, recording evidence, investigating, and prompt criminal trials through designated special courts.

The new Act calls for a number of crimes to punish an accused. It acknowledges ways of penetration other than penile-vaginal penetration and also criminalises acts of childhood immodesty. 

  1. Penetrative sexual assault: penetration of penis/ object/ another part of the body into the vagina/urethra/anus/mouth of the child or asking the child to do so with them or any other male.
  2. Sexual assault: when someone touches the child or causes the child to touch them or someone else, sexual harassment: passing sexually colored remarks, sexual gesture/noise, repeated follow-up, flashing, etc.
  3. Child pornography exacerbated sexual assault / aggravated sexual assault.

For both children and the accused the act is gender-neutral. As regards pornography, even watching or collecting pornographic content involving children is criminalised in the Act. The Act makes sexual harassment of children an offence.

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Amendment To POCSO Act, 2012

The Parliament of India passed an amendment to the Protection Of Children From Sexual Offences Act, 2012, in August 2019.

The new bill aims to improve the punishment of minors for sexual crimes, including a death sentence. To counter child pornography, the Bill provides that those who are using a child for sexual purposes will be prosecuted with up to five years imprisonment and fine. However, the punishment would be up to seven years and fine in the event of a second or subsequent conviction.

The Bill defines child pornography as any visual representation of sexually explicit behavior involving a child, including photographs, video, digital or computer-generated images that can not be distinguished from a child. According to the Amendment Bill, those who commit penetrative sexual assaults against a child under the age of 16 would be punished with imprisonment for up to 20 years, which may be extended to imprisonment for a lifetime. In the event of aggravated penetrative sexual assault, the bill increases the minimum penalty from 10 years to 20 years, and the maximum penalty to death in response to the debate, Minister of Women and Child Development Smriti Irani said the government’s priority is to ensure that every child in the country receives justice. “POCSO covers sexual harassment,” she said. She stated that the government has approved over a thousand fast-track courts under POCSO for speedy disposal of pending cases. She said 18 states consented to the creation of fast-track courts. They will be established in two years’ time. Six lakh sex offenders have been registered under the National Sex Offenders Database, Mrs. Irani said. The discussion included representatives from different political parties including Congress, TDP, TMC, and BSP.

Effect Of COVID-19 On Child Pornography In India

COVID 19 has brought with it not just physical ailments but also an increase in the child pornography industry in India. According to a report titled ‘Child Sexual Abuse Material in India’, there has been an increase of up to 200 percent in the demand for violent child pornography material on the internet. This figure is both alarming and disappointing. 

This presents a chilling reality of the extreme threat that India’s kids face during this lockdown period. Demand for information on child sexual exploitation suggests children are more vulnerable to sexual predators.

Metro cities like New Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, and Mumbai were red-flagged in addition to other Tier II and capital cities, which are experiencing a rapid rise in coronavirus cases are earmarked as the hotspots of child pornography.

In a time frame when children are supposed to stay safe in the vicinity of their homes, and if anything, bond with their families, there comes this disheartening news. 

Reforms and suggestion

By now, the reader must have got a fair idea of what child pornography is, its increasing menace, and its presence in society. Also, a fair enumeration of the laws that deal with this menace in India has been done. But a major question remains: is this enough? Are these all that can be done? And if this is all that can be done why isn’t this peril ending? 

The reform according to me has to be brought in the minds of these offenders. Any law can only punish the offender and that too inevitably with a strong enforcement mechanism, which evidently is not present in India. Laws to their maximum extent can just limit any offence. For this menace to end, the problem has to be uprooted from its very core. This can happen only through societal and familial values.

This may sound vague, but the ultimate solution to this problem according to me lies in a systematised uprooting of this problem, which has to start from the family itself. This has to start by giving space to their kids, and providing them with an environment where they can share anything and everything with their parents. 

Also, systematised checks have to be maintained by the family on their children and the people they are intimately interacting with. This has to be done without breaching their privacy with the simple aim of dealing with the problems that they might be going through. Also, most importantly an effective parenting style has to be adopted to bring up the child as a healthy individual.

Conclusion

Child pornography is a horrifying aspect of the new age reality. Though some of the reasons have been traced, there have been no successful attempts to curb them. There also has been the identification of which kind of population is more prone to getting divulged in these kinds of activities. Still, there have been no successful attempts at resolving these. This evidences that, as important, it is to mark the reasons for the problem, so is to uproot these reasons.

Laws to curb the menace of child pornography in India are in force, although it is evident that these are not enough. The real solution to this problem lies in the reforms at the grassroots level, primarily in the homes. Right parenting techniques and maintenance of regulated checks on children by their parents are of utmost importance. Laws can punish the guilty, but actual change and finishing of this problem from its very root can happen only from grassroots level changes.


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