“Laws can only punish the guilty, real change can happen only from the grassroots level.”
Child pornography refers to the portrayal of a juvenile or a person who appears to be minor in a sexually explicit act through films, images, or other computer-generated content. It also includes any alteration of a picture or video to indicate that a minor is participating in sexually explicit conduct.
Child pornography is one of the most horrific crimes globally since it promotes child sexual abuse, sex tourism, and human trafficking, among other things. The amount of child pornography shared on the internet has skyrocketed in recent years. Over 3,000 cases were filed against websites that included child pornography in 1998. Only a decade later, the number of cases had risen to over 100,000, and in 2014, it surpassed 1 million for the first time. In 2019, 18.4 million incidences of child pornography were reported worldwide.
Child pornography is one of the fastest growing online businesses, according to market data from the National Center for Sexual Abuse, and India is one of its most significant customers and contributors. Every 40 seconds, a pornographic video is captured in India, with roughly 38% of these videos linked to child sexual abuse.
The Role of International Law in Combating Child Pornography:
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, the first legally enforceable treaty on children’s rights, ensures that children are protected from sexual abuse. Article 34 of the Convention requires nations to take all necessary national, bilateral, and multinational measures to safeguard minors from all types of sexual exploitation and abuse.
In 2000, the United Nations General Assembly passed the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography. It is the most significant international treaty addressing the subject of child sexual abuse. It acknowledged victims’ rights to these crimes and established guidelines for victim protection in the criminal justice system. Article 3 of the Optional Protocol requires States to criminalise the production, distribution, importation, exportation, dissemination, offer, or sale of child pornography, and Article 3(1)(c) requires States to criminalise the possession of child pornography if it is used for any of the purposes as mentioned above.
The Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime (2001), often known as the Budapest Convention, is one of the important treaties dealing with child abuse since it takes a more practical approach and applies to judicial officers and law enforcement organisations. Child pornography is defined in Article 9 of the Budapest Convention as “material that visually shows a juvenile or a person seeming to be a minor engaging in a sexually explicit act.” The Budapest Convention is especially famous for its straightforward language and precise classification of online child pornography.
The Convention on the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation (2007) and Sexual Abuse classifies child pornography. Because it includes sexual tourism as a type of child abuse, it has a broader scope. This convention’s lack of global adoption is a disadvantage, as it has only been adopted by European countries thus far.
India’s Role in Combating Child Pornography:
It is prohibited to sell, distribute, exhibit, circulate, or otherwise distribute obscene material to anybody under the age of twenty, according to Section 293 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. It considers such acts to be criminal offences.
Also, Section 67B of the Information and Technology Act, 2000 criminalises child pornography and the new amendment to this act outlaws the creation and distribution of obscene material in electronic form but also to visit such sites.
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act of 2012 (hence referred to as the “POCSO Act”) stipulates penalties for child pornography. The use of minors for pornographic purposes in any form of media, including the portrayal of a child’s sexual organs, the participation of a child in actual or simulated sexual acts, and the indecent or improper description of a child, is prohibited under Section 14 of the POCSO Act.
While Section 67B of the IT Act criminalises the pornographic representation as an object, Section 14 of the POCSO Act criminalises the use of a child for pornography as a subject. A child’s consent is immaterial under both laws since a child is judged incapable of giving permission.
These laws are not sufficient to curb this menace. As laws can only punish the guilty, real change can happen only from the grassroots level.
Child pornography is a moral and legal issue since it can potentially affect a child’s perspective of humanity negatively. The continual distribution of pornographic content via the internet exacerbates child victims’ trauma by keeping the wounds open.
Despite several international conventions, we as a global society have struggled to come up with clear rules for their application. It is critical to developing a consistent global framework for detecting, assessing, and prosecuting online child pornography as a principle of international law.
Child Pornography Laws in India, available at: https://indianchild.com/childlaws/child-pornograhy-laws-in-india.htm
Combating Child Pornography in India, available at: https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/05/milind-rajratnam-combating-child-pornography/