According to a paper published by a famous clinical psychologist, Michael Bourke, child sexual abusers and men charged with Internet Child Pornography are, in many cases, the same set of people.
It was the year 2007. Priya’s parents got divorced, and her mother got custody. She loved her father and often visited him. Her mother hated the idea of her association with the father. She used to be furious at 5-year-old Priya. Fast forward to the year 2016. It was January 14 when Mumbai Police filed a complaint from Priya’s mother of her daughter missing. A case was registered, and just after four days, the child’s father returned her to the home safe and sound. Priya reported that she missed her father, so she went to stay at her house in Ahmednagar. The case was closed. However, On January 28, Priya’s mother claimed that Priya’s father, along with another man, physically molested her during her stay at her fathers’ residence. After an investigation, the Police found the statement of Priya’s mother quite suspicious. After repeated and gentle cajoling, Priya told the Police that her mother physically tortured her for days to pressurize her to file a false case against her father. Now, 19-year-old Priya lives in a Child Care home. With no one to call her own.
Child abuse could either be sexual, mental, or physical abuse to children. According to a study by Kauppi et al., it is found out that the parents who abuse their child do not intend to kill them. Most of the cases happen because of the sudden outburst of anger. The events of child abuse often occur in the context of psychosis, suicide or violence, or a mood disorder. There are cases when the motive involves relieving a child of imaginary suffering, which often leads to the child’s death. The most prominent cause of child abuse is a psychological one. Studies indicate that children are often at risk of being harmed by parents with mental issues. Parents under the influence of any form of drugs are usually child abusers. Stress or financial problems could also be a significant cause of child abuse.
It is noteworthy that child abuse is often difficult to identify as it is a complex problem with multiple interrelated causes. It is imperative to understand the origin of damage to a child, so he or she may receive appropriate treatments or therapy. Out of 200 examined intra-familial cases of abuse by parents, 23% were of child battering and 7% by continuous battering.
The recent lockdown in the country has made things worse for the poor little souls in India as the cases of child abuse multiplied themselves when everything remained behind closed doors. Summer Sodhi and Aarzoo Aneja, two lawyers, wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) to take Suo moto cognizance of the recent increase in child abuse cases across India. In their letter to the CJI they wrote, “Under normal circumstances, it is not considered safe for abused children to stay at home as it might result in further suffering at the hands of their family members. However, during the lockdown, the danger to these children is exacerbated, as they are unable to leave their homes. The isolation has further shattered support networks, making it even more difficult for the victims to seek help or escape,” The main concern was that if the preemptive measures are not taken immediately, these cases will only increase. It would be a no-brainer to say that child abuse is a big problem in this world which we, as a society, need to tackle.
Before we do that, we first need to understand the legal aspect of child abuse. In India, The Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 is the fundamental law dealing with child care and protection. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), 2012 is another Act to cater to the needs of a child and bring them to justice. POCSO is designed to combat sexual violence against children. POCSO qualifies penetrative sexual assault on a child below the age of 12 as aggravated sexual assault. This crime is punishable with a fine and a minimum term of rigorous imprisonment for ten years, which can extend to life imprisonment.
The Government of India is also running an Integrated Child Protection Scheme to secure the safety of children. POCSO E-Box was also launched in the year of 2016 to facilitate an online complaint system for easy and direct reporting of sexual offences against the children. It is an initiative of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, for direct online reporting of child Sexual Abusers. The commission was established under the Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005 for better implementation and action of the law.
India has the largest number of child sexual abuse cases worldwide: a child under the age of 16 is raped every 155 minutes, a child under the age of 10 is raped every 13 hours and one in every 10 children at any given stage is sexually abused. Studies estimate that annually more than 7,200 girls, including babies, are raped and most cases are likely to go unreported.
A survey on demographics and health by the United Nations International Children’s Education Fund ( UNICEF) was conducted in India between 2005 and 2013, which estimated that ten per cent of Indian girls might have witnessed sexual harassment when they were 10–14 years of age and 30 per cent when they were 15–19. In particular, almost 42% of Indian girls were traumatized before their adolescence with sexual abuse.
According to a paper published by a famous clinical psychologist, Michael Bourke, child sexual abusers and men charged with Internet Child Pornography are, in many cases, the same set of people. The deliberations of who in their sane mind would consume child pornography is the mirror of the dark society in which we live.
According to a study by The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, a typical consumer of child pornography is male with no prior criminal records, and less than 1% are women. The question of why can be very specific, depending on the individual. Yet, the general theme revolving around this is sexual gratification, emotional escape, people who are sexually indiscriminate (meaning they are in constant search of new sexual stimuli) and sexually curious people. Individuals often like to take a “persona”, if you will, to be a younger and more appealing version of themselves. Some individuals find children less threatening and usually struggle with adult intimacy. People are in line with the type of pornography they consume, and thus it is found out that the majority of the consumers are, simply, paedophiles or hebephiles. Among the people who were prosecuted for possession of child pornography, approximately one in three offenders had a known history of one or more types of Criminally Sexually Dangerous Behaviour or CSDB. Studies reveal that 94.7% of the offences involved victims who were minors. Additionally, the most common type of CSDB was sexual molestation of a female prepubescent juvenile who knew the perpetrator, such as a family member or family friend.
The industry involved in producing and distributing child pornography is a booming one. According to The New York Times, this industry generates an estimated revenue of $20 billion. Child pornography usually gets distributed in one of two ways. It can be either commercial child pornography (distributed for profit) or non-profit commercial child pornography (offered free of cost and often exchanged among perpetrators). It expands and spreads faster than we would ever like to imagine. Every week, more than 20,000 images of child pornography get posted on the internet.
A girl who was forced by her drug-addict mother into the abyss of child porn at the tender age of 5 years old recounted her horror. She was raped and had pictures and videos taken of her. Finally, when her mother came to her senses and tried to get the family out of the child porn business, she was blackmailed by the abuser who threatened to have child protective services take her children away. Thus the poor girl could not escape from that hell until she was “too old” to continue, and the family had to run away into hiding.
The biggest problem with consuming child pornography is not that it damages the consumer but that it creates demand. And when that demand exists, there will always be the need of a supplier to fill that void and make money out of it by ruining countless innocent lives.
According to a report by an NGO India Child Protection Fund (ICPF), the Consumption of child pornography content in India has spiked by 95 per cent amid lockdown. This spike indicates towards the migration of paedophiles, hebephiles, child rapists and child pornography addicts into the online medium. This change is a cause of concern as it made the internet more unsafe for vulnerable children. Various international agencies have also reported increased online activity from paedophiles and child pornography addicts. Reports say that these people are targeting children to ‘groom’ them to later lure them into performing sexual activities through photos and videos.
Investigative agencies around the globe are doing their best to crack down on these perpetrators. We, as a society, need to step up and fight this uphill battle which costs many lives and ruins many souls from inside out.
— Co-Authored with Mariya Noor, She is law student at AMU.