The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines child sexual abuse as “the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend and is unable to give informed consent to, or for which the child is not developmentally prepared, or else that violate the laws or social taboos of society.”India leads the world as a country with maximum cases of child sexual exploitation. Statistics show that in India, every 155 minutes, a child under 16 years of age is raped.
1.Protection of Children From Sexual Offences Act, 2012: The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 addresses redressal of child sexual abuse by enlisting a wide range of sexual offences against children. This Act was formed to prevent sexual harassment, sexual assault, pornography and immoral acts against children. This Act is not gender-specific and also penalises abetment of child abuse.
2. In India, seeking, browsing, downloading or exchanging child pornography is an offence punishable under the IT Act. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) launched a national cybercrime reporting portal in September 2018 for filing online complaints pertaining to child pornography and rape-gang rape.
3. The ad hoc Committee of the Rajya Sabha, headed by Jairam Ramesh, in its report made wide-ranging recommendations on ‘the alarming issue of pornography on social media and its effect on children and society as whole’. The committee recommended permitting the breaking of end-to-end encryption, building partnership with industry to develop tools using artificial intelligence for dark-web investigations, tracing identity of users engaged in crypto currency transactions to purchase child pornography online and liasoning with financial service companies to prevent online payments for purchasing child pornography.
4. National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), which is incorporated under the Ministry of Woman and Child Development by the central government, works to regulate all laws and programmes with a child-centric approach. The commission can also take suo moto cognizance for violation of child rights.
5. Child Welfare Committee (CWC): This committee is formed under the Women and Child Development Department. The committee looks after the child in need of care and protection. This committee is to be informed about any child abuse within 24 hours by the police officer. Also, any reporting of child abuse can be done by dialling the toll-free number 1098.
6. Recently, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) conducted searches across States and Union Territories as part of a pan-India operation, “Megh Chakra” against the online circulation and sharing of Child Sexual Abusive Material (CSAM) using cloud-based storage.
To address this issue at the roots, proper awareness at local level needs to be generated. The community members need to understand that both girls and boys are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and it is important to support the victims of this offence.