Copyright © 2020 - Ex Gratia Law Journal

COVID and Child bereavement – A Socio Legal Apprehension

1. INTRODUCTION:

The lockdown due to Covid-19 or corona virus pandemic have not only resulted in economic imbalance in our nation but also resulted in social and legal downfall. Children being accustomed inside the house all day tend to attend online classes and play online games. This encourages the online predators to victimise children at higher rates, in turn these children are both domestically and virtually abused.This paper confers how the young minds are mishandled and ways to be adapted to overcome such difficulties.

2. CHILD ABUSE AND ITS FORMS:

A harm is any detrimental effect that destroys the physical, emotional or psychological well-being of the child. The Child Protection Act,1999 majorly focuses on the effect and impact of the child which is abused, rather than how frequently the abuse has befallen.  That is, whether the child has endured or will be suffering any significant harm or risk. Child abuse can be a single incident or series of incidents and can befall in many behaviours: These may take place majorly in two forms;

  1. Domestic abuse
  2. Cyber abuse

3. CHILD TORMENT- A DOMESTIC ABUSE

  1. Physical Abuse: Physical abuse chances when a child has been offended or bruised, and it is not an accident. It need not always leave visible marks or injuries, this can be hitting, shaking, choking, using physical restraints etc.
  2. Sexual abuse: Child sexual abuse occurs when an adult, teenager or child uses their power or authority to involve another child in sexual activity. During this lockdown, the number of sexual abuse cases are snowballing and the sad part is such children are victimised by their own primary relatives and contacts. Such act traumatises the child and it affects them emotionally and psychologically.
  3. Emotional Abuse: This abuse occurs when a child is treated in a way that negatively impacts their societal, emotional or intellectual development through means of rejection, bullying, isolating, exposing them to the domestic and family violence, etc.Experiencing family vehemence can also lead to emotiveimpairment. A child who experiences violence at home is at largerperil of not having their basic needs met, including their safety and attention needs causing post-traumatic stress disorder.
  4. Neglect: When a child’s basic wants are not satisfied and neglected , this could lead to upsetting their health and growth. Basic needs comprises of food, safe and clean environment, clothing, health care, hygiene and proper supervision.[1]

4. CHILD PORNOGRAPHY AS A MENACE- A CYBER ABUSE

Children are not only mishandled because of domestic violence, but   also because of the present lockdown state they are much prone to cyber abuses as well. This could be in two ways, either they are dragged and abused cyber sexually or targeted to meet the intensifying child porn demands.Smartphones are easily available at cheaper rates, this in turn increases higher child abuse scandal and cyber issues. Cheap smartphones and widespread internet access, combined with cultural silence on misuse and absence of resources to inspect and prosecute criminals are some of the driving forces behind these numbers. Rampant poverty is also a factor. Child abuse videos might well be a family’s only source of income. Present scenario of lockdown has completely worsened the scenario, where children are made to attend online classes and are easily prone to fall as the virtual predator’s prey.Online sexting, sending adult contented depictions, hacking their screens, forcing and involving them to watch annoying and uninvited images and videos are some of the techniques these dark web hackers and child porn predators use to abuse children and make them as their prey.While any kind of pornographic material in India is technically illegal, it remains one of the world’s biggest producers and consumers of child exploitation online. It is estimated that of all pornographic content produced in the country, roughly a third show sexual abuse of a child. National Centre on missing and exploited Children (NCMEC)[2] NGO recently alerted the Indian government about the presence of child pornographic content on various social media sites in the country. Delhi has topped the list of places where child porn was uploaded, followed by Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, and West Bengal. The online predators victimise children in such a way that they fall in their trap.

5. AFTERMATH TRAUMA:

 Harm experienced in childhood can have noteworthy and long-lasting effects. Children may experience a range of emotional, psychological and physical glitches as a consequence of being harmed, including:

  • Truncated self-esteem, developmental delay, eating disorders and physical ailments
  • Disrupted attachments with close ones, difficulty forming relationships with others
  • Augmented dread, guilt and self-blame, self-harming or suicidal thoughts
  • Psychological health disorders such as anxiety, attachment, post-traumatic stress, violent, aggressive or criminal behaviour or other behavioural problems, depression disorders
  • Learning disorders, poor language and cognitive development, permanent physical injuries or death
  • Drug and alcohol abuse and high-risk sexual behaviour.

Some children would not significantly develop any symptoms which is highly dicey. So, these can be the dreadful and deadly effects due to countless sorts of abuse

6. PRESENT-DAY SCENARIO:

It is been reported by the Chennai police and other officials at Child line Tamil Nadu that, they have seen a massive hike in number of child sexual abuse complaints being filed during the lockdown. Between March and April 20, Child Line India data revealed that more calls were received, for cases requiring protection from abuse, including sexual abuse, trafficking, abandonment and neglect[3].In the meantime , a recent study by the India Child Protection Fund (ICPF) said that there had been an almost 200% increase in access to child pornography since a nationwide lockdown was implemented.[4]

7. LAWS OPPOSING CHILD PORNOGRAPHIC SCANDAL

  1. Under Section 292 and 293 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)it explicitly prohibits the obscene images, and videos. Pornography in any form is illegal in India.[5]
  2. Information Technology (IT) Act – Section 67 B punishes people for transmitting material depicting children in sexual act in electronic form.[6]
  3. The laws strictly prohibit child pornography in India and any person convicted for browsing child porn content can be awarded a sentence of five years in prison and a fine of Rs 1 million.

8. LACUNAE IN LAW:

Neither Section 67 of the IT Act nor Section 293 of the IPC define child pornography, when there is no proper definition and penalties, the domestic and virtual predators take the situation granted and this encourages more happening of such heinous crimes. Lack of strict enforcing laws to ban child pornography and porn scandal.If a person stores such content for distributing it further, except for when presenting it in court as evidence, he faces only minimal punishment, which does not stop others from doing it.

The cyber abuse takes place only because of the higher demand of child pornography;thus, laws should be enforced in such a way that no Virtual Private Networks (VPN) can be used and the criminals should be easily traced out with their network id’s. Government has not efficiently banned porn sites in spite of stringent laws.

9. STRATEGIES THAT CAN BE EXECUTED:

  1. Awareness camps should be conducted where parents and children should be educated about the forms of abuse and the virtual predators, and more parental guidance and supervision is to recommended, Children are not aware of such mishandling and abuse happening to them, thus the Government by setting up committees should make sure that children must get to know about such happenings and also to contact the helpline numbers if they are subjected to harm or abuse.
  2. Recreation camps for the children who have been physically, mentally and emotionally abused should be set up and regular psychiatric counselling and other possible measures like education, supporting them should be done.
  3. The people who are engaged in such pornographic content, sex trafficking, cyber hacking, online sexual abuse etc, should be traced out immediately before other set of children are victimised. The same set of abuse hike is not only in India but across the globe, so all the Government should join hands are make laws stricter  The VPN and other connecting networks which hackers generally use to conceal their identity should be banned.
  4. Important amendments to the POCSO Act, 2012 and the IT Act, 2000 besides technological, institutional, social and educational measures and state-level initiatives should be made. The amended law must apply to pornographic content where adults or young adults pretend to be children. For legal purposes, the definition of child pornography must be broadened. The new definition “Any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a child which include photographs, video, digital or computer-generated image indistinguishable from an actual child and an image created, adapted or modified but appear to depict a child”.
  5. The internet service providers (ISPs) should be made accountable for the accessibility of such content. ISPs should identify and remove child sexual abuse content or material (CSAM) and report such content and those who are trying to access such materials to the officials under the national cyber crime portal.Fine amount from Rs.1000 should be increased and more strict penalties must be amended. ‘Safety commissioners’ in every state should be appointed to strengthen the system who could visualise the reporting of sexual exploitation of children on social media[7]
  6. If a person stores such content for distributing it further, except for when presenting it in court as evidence, maximum punishment should be imposed. This would create a fear and inhibit such future crimes.
  7. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) can serve as the nodal body for curbing child pornography for strengthening the laws. NCPCR should include advanced technologies to curb circulation of child porn such as breaking end-to-end encryption to trace its distributors of child pornography, mandatory applications to monitor children’s access to pornographic content, employing photo DNA to target profile pictures of groups with CSAM.

10. VIEW:

Children are too young to handle everything that is happening around them. The abusers or so called “predators” in order to encounter their needs and gluttony, victimise young minds. This ruthless act of them ruins their whole peaceful and normal living. Our former president, father of modern India, Dr.A.P.J. Abdul Kalam believed that, “If India is to become developed by 2020 it will do so only by riding on the shoulders of the young” but on contrary, young children in India and all over the world, is abused and tortured thereby deteriorating the scenario. Only if the laws are strictlyimplemented, India could lean back on children, if not, the future of children as well as the whole country would be miserable.


[1]Types of child abuse, Queensland Government, https://www.qld.gov.au/community/getting-support-health-social-issue/support-victims-abuse/child-abuse/what-is-child-abuse/child-abuse-types

[2]Working with Child Victims of Sex Trafficking,Office of juvinile justice and delinquency protection-OJJDP (June 11, 2020, 8.30 A.M), https://ojjdp.ojp.gov/events/working-child-victims-sex-trafficking

[3]Smita, Sexual abuse of children may arise during lockdown, The Times of India (July 11, 2020., 09.00.A.M) http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/76786107.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

[4]Lauramallene, Demand for Child Porn Doubles Amid Pandemic, OCCRP ( July 11,2020, 11.30 A.M), https://www.occrp.org/en/daily/12272-demand-for-child-porn-doubles-amid-pandemic

[5] The Indian penal code, section 292 (1860)

[6] The information technology act, section 67 B (2000)

[7]Child pornography as a menace, Manifest IAS (July 11,2020,13.00 P.M),https://www.manifestias.com/2020/02/25/child-pornography-as-a-menace/#:~:text=Information%20Technology%20(IT)%20Act%20%E2%80%93,pornography%20illegal%20in%20the%20country.&text=The%20laws%20strictly%20prohibit%20child,fine%20of%20Rs%201%20million

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Author

Jayaprada B
Student - SASTRA Deemed to be University