Paedophilia – the monster under the bed that we haven’t bothered to address

Child sex, child porn, kids sex videos – continue the chain with other relevant keywords and put them up on Google Trends. The results are staggering, to say the very least.

Paedophilia is an issue that demands serious attention on not just national but on a global level. The demand for sexual content featuring children who are visibly under the age of puberty has spiked to concerning levels and yet no serious counter has been launched by any government against it. A number of news reports since April 2020 claim that the demand for child pornographic imagery and videos has spiked exponentially since COVID-19 lockdown in India, indicating a serious rise in paedophilia in the country that can easily physically manifest as child abuse or sexual exploitation of children in households. This is evident with a report made in the Jurist – “A study by UNICEF found that 1 out of 3 girls and 1 out of 5 boys were likely to be sexually assaulted before they reach the age of 18, and in a startling revelation, also found that 90% of these children know their offenders.” (-Jurist, May 14, 2020)

Sexual abuse of children is amongst the most heinous forms of crimes and is foundation to a lifetime of psychological unrest among the victims. Easy access to content that justifies paedophilia online has contributed heavily to this rise in statistics aforementioned. Child porn is a direct consequence of paedophilia which is classified as a psychiatric disorder. While being sexually attracted to underage children is a disorder, the intent of raping and abusing them physically and disseminating the content in multimedia format has been its worst form. One of the most disturbing things I’ve heard is the extent of sexual exploitation of children that happens in these videos – and with infants. Here’s the most dreadful thing you’ll hear for a while from now – there have been videos online featuring sexual penetration of girl children with their umbilical cords uncut; that’s the extents of child sexual abuse we’re talking of. I do not know how that is physically possible and how at all the mental intent can appear. And there are simply no answers to the questions of how the children were procured to make such videos and who funds them, provides them security and completes the process of video creation and dissemination. But this kind of monstrous sexual exploitation is happening in the world with children who have not even begun to comprehend the idea of sexuality; and there are millions who are consuming such content online. It goes without saying that child trafficking, abuse and rape are the collaterals of this issue and the audacity with which its happening is one of the biggest threats we’re all facing.

In 2019, there were 18.4 million cases of child pornography across the world. Speaking of India, The Indian Express reported on 28th of January 2020 that there were 25,000 child porn videos uploaded to the internet in a span of 5 months (in 2019) in the country. As for crime reports, 32,608 cases were reported in 2017 while 39,827 cases of child sexual abuse in 2018 under POCSO – Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act. Manipur is the state where child porn is accessed the highest in India, followed by Delhi and Maharashtra. (Different reports and Google Trends showcase different data regarding this but these states were the most consistent in all reports.) Speaking of world stats, Pakistan is the biggest consumer of child porn followed by African nations and Bangladesh.

Speaking of laws against it, child pornographic content online has been categorized to be illegal under the IT Act of 2000 in India and can result in imprisonment until 5 years and a fine of 1 million. If one finds paedophilic content online, common internet users are directed to the Cyber Crime website where they can lodge a complaint against the same. However, in contrast to the amount of paedophilic content available and the ease with which it is available, actions of the law against it are starkly insufficient.

As for the further enforcement of the laws against child porn, The Indian Express reported in January 2020 that the Adhoc Committee in Rajya Sabha has submitted 40 recommendations to prevent child abuse in India, which includes a broader definition of child pornography and control of such content over the internet alongside some amendments to POCSO. Again, considering the number of cases lodged and the amount of content circulated online, the laws are blatantly inadequate.

The pornography industry whose recent victims are children is apparently one of the most coordinated industries across the world. Laws against sexually illicit content are not the same in different countries and the industry makes the best use of the loophole to escape conviction. Though the technique of tracking IP addresses of content disseminators and their eventual persecution has paid off to a certain extent in countries like USA and India, the process has been tediously inefficient to tackle the prevailing issue that is apparently much bigger than we can imagine. A stern and reliable system of international law against child pornography seems to be the only solution to this problem.

The pornographic industry does not function on ‘consent’ and it is an open secret revealed by numerous ex-porn actors. While the adult actors struggle to find a way out of the ugly and belittling industry, children are falling prey in large numbers and through clearly illegal means. Yes, the issue is a legal one but a much greater one ethically. Consumption, circulation or even mute observation of dissemination of such content online is a question mark on the psychological state of an individual. The least we can do against this level of monstrosity is to stay aware and vocal of our stands against it.

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