Online Child Safety from Sexual Abuse in India

By Mathew, Lina Acca | Journal of Information, Law and Technology, June 2009 | Go to article overview

Online Child Safety from Sexual Abuse in India


Mathew, Lina Acca, Journal of Information, Law and Technology


1. Introduction

The World Health Organization defines child sexual abuse as the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or that violates the laws or social taboos of society. Child sexual abuse is evidenced by this activity between a child and an adult or another child who by age or development is in a relationship of responsibility, trust or power, the activity being intended to gratify or satisfy the needs of the other person. This may include but is not limited to the inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful activity, the exploitative use of a child in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices, the exploitative use of children in pornographic performances and materials (1). A similar definition has been stated in Article 18 of The Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, 2007 which is yet to enter into force (2).

The risks that minors face online include sexual solicitation, exposure to problematic and illegal content as well as harassment and bullying. These risks are not confined to their local area but occur from people all around the world. Parents and teachers do not have direct experience with the risks posed by new-media technologies. Addressing the risks online therefore carries different challenges and requires broader collaboration to find innovative solutions (3). The need for a multi-layered approach to internet governance in India is highlighted by a comparative study of the various measures available internationally to make communications over the information and communication technologies safe.

A concerted effort is very essential from various actors in order to prevent online child sexual abuse. Those who can help report child sexual abuse have been identified as social-service workers, healthcare practitioners, education providers, law enforcement officers, photo developers, IT professionals, ISPs, credit card companies and banks (4). Other actors are telecom service providers, network service providers, web-hosting service providers, search engines, online payment sites, online-auction sites, online-market places, and cyber cafes. A multi-level sensitisation about the need to collect statistics as well as report suspected internet child abuse should be effected among these actors.

In India, the government does not take a pro-active stand against child sexual abuse, in contrast to the USA where law enforcement officials lure potential sex offenders in decoy. In sting operations conducted in the USA, where paedophiles are lured over the internet to contact people below the age of consent over the Internet for sexual liaisons, many highly-educated and well-to-do Indians are turning up as potential molesters. This is particularly disturbing, as there are no statistics on this in India (5).

Child-to-child solicitation and abuse through the medium of mobile telecommunications is becoming a serious problem in India. Other kinds of abuse occur through social networking sites like Orkut where pictures of girls have been posted on communities with lewd allusions and a listing of the victims' mobile numbers. With new-media technologies available at lower costs, child sex abuse images are being increasingly made and uploaded from India (6). In a recent case in Kerala State, three girls committed suicide after increasing blackmail that the film of classmates raping them which had been taken on a mobile camera would be publicly circulated. Generally, it is a fact that unwanted publicity and fear of victimisation by law enforcement machinery are reasons why the largely conventional Indian families fear reporting child sexual abuse.

2. A Comparative analysis regarding definition and criminalisation of Online Child Sexual Abuse

The word 'online' means all forms of information and communication technologies like the internet, mobile phones etc. …

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