India needs stricter child abuse laws, say activists

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India’s Supreme Court has ordered immediate steps to be taken to block websites with abusive content, especially those featuring children.

The moves come amid a perceived rise in cyber-related crime and the proliferation of child abuse images on the internet.

Presenter: Murali Krishnan

Speaker: Enakshi Ganguly Thukral, director HAQ; Pavan Duggal, advocate and cyberlaw expert; Naresh Kumar, shopkeeper

KRISHNAN: The number of Internet users in India is expected to rise in the coming eight months to reach 243 million, on the back of a growing number of smart phones as a means to access the Internet. This is expected to overtake the US as the second largest Internet base in the world, according to a latest Indian study.

But the internet is no longer a luxury and it has played a major role in introducing a parallel virtual world to people living in India. One of the effects of this technological change is the easy access to adult and child abuse content.

The rising numbers of child abuse sites in recent years argue rights activists have contributed to sexual violence. And this has prompted India’s Supreme Court recently urging the department of telecommunications to take immediate steps to block websites with pornographic content, especially those featuring children.

Enakshi Ganguly Thukral is the director of HAQ, the Centre for Child Rights, which works with juveniles.

THUKRAL: When we interviewed children who have committed offences, we find that in a number of cases that these young adolescents who have committed an offence of rape have been watching video clips… something on their mobiles or a cyber café and that has what has incited them to do it. It (Rape) is incited by access to these titillating sites that are available so easy.

KRISHNAN: The court’s directive follows a petition filed by an advocate, who pleaded that child abuse sites being accessed today was far more graphic, violent and brutal putting the whole of society in danger as well as posing a threat to the social fabric.

The petition further argues that over 200 million videos were freely available in the Indian market, which have been directly downloaded from the Internet or copied from video CDs.

Pavan Duggal, an advocate and Asia’s leading authority on cyber law says the problem will not stop soon.

DUGGAL: It is clear that the Internet cannot be ever rid of the poison of child abuse. We can make efforts to get it reduced to the barest minimum possible. We have to realise that pornography is the biggest mover of e commerce in the world. And therefore child abuse and paedophiles are constantly going to be invading the internet and cyber space. So its going to be a constant fight and the more we are able to minimise them towards marginalisation that is the better way going forward.

KRISHNAN: Both Google and Microsoft have also unveiled measures to block online searches for child sex abuse images as part of a bid to crack down on Internet pedophiles. The tech giants have announced that as many as 100,000 search terms will now fail to produce results and trigger warnings that child abuse imagery is illegal.

Naresh Kumar, a shopkeeper in Delhi, has seen such videos and memory cards being freely bought by teenagers and adults from markets.

KUMAR: My personal feeling that this is a good step but unfortunately this has come very late. This should have been done 4-5 years back. Today it has become a disease… it is like one person sees a chip… shows it to 10 more people and subsequently the chain moves on. This should have started earlier. But if the court has taken the decision, let us see the result of this now.

Mr Duggal says the Information Technology Act does not make it illegal to view adult porn but watching child abuse sites is an offence.

DUGGAL: India did not have a dedicated on child abuse per se. Now, all kinds of child abuse are specifically covered. It is very vast. Further collecting and even browsing content which chooses children in various forms of abuse is a separate offence. Unfortunately it has not been invoked much. We don’t have any conviction of child abuse in India yet.

KRISHNAN:Whether the authorities will be able to devise a mechanism to block such sites, particularly those containing child abuse is still a big question.

Source: Radio Australia