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COVID-19 contributed to spike in child sexual exploitation: Report

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  • Categories
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    23rd Oct, 2021


Recently, a report titled the Global Threat Assessment Report 2021, released by We Protect Global Alliance has revealed that Covid-19 had contributed to a significant spike in child sexual exploitation and abuse online.

Key-Highlights of the Report

  • In the past two years, the reporting of child sexual exploitation and online abuse has reached its highest level.
    • Covid-19 has created a “perfect storm” of conditions that fuelled a rise in child sexual exploitation and abuse across the globe.
  • According to the Internet Watch Foundation, the rise in child ‘self-generated’ sexual material is another worrying trend.
  • Transgender / non-binary, LGBQ + and / or disabled people were more likely to experience online sexual abuse during childhood.

Indian scenario

  • During the epidemic, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) showed a 106% increase in reports of child sexual abuse on its CyberTipline worldwide.
    • NCMEC is a non-profit organization (NGO) founded by the United States Congress.
  • Moreover, during the closure of Covid-19 in India, there was a 95% increase in searches for child sexual abuse.

Problems Related to Child Sexual Abuse

  • Multi-layered Problem: Child sexual abuse is a multi-layered problem which negatively impacts children’s physical safety, mental health, well-being and behavioural aspects.
  • Amplification Due to Digital Technologies: Mobile and digital technologies continue to increase child abuse and exploitation. New forms of child abuse such as cyber bullying, child abuse, and child pornography have also emerged.
  • Ineffective Legislation: Although the Government of India enacted the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act 2012 (POCSO Act),it has failed to protect children from sexual abuse. The reasons for this may be the following:
    • Low Conviction Rate: The conviction rate under the POCSO law is estimated at 32% only if a person takes an average of 5 years ago and the percentage of cases pending is 90%.
    • Judicial Delay: The Kathua Rape case took 16 months for the main defendants to be found guilty and the POCSO Act explicitly states that the entire trial and sentencing process must take place in one year.
    • Unfriendly to Child: Challenges related to age-determination of the child. Especially laws that focus on biological age and not mental age.

Indian Initiatives for Preventing Child Sexual Abuse

  • Child Abuse Prevention and Investigation Unit
  • Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao
  • Juvenile Justice Act/Care and Protection Act, 2000
  • Child Marriage Prohibition Act (2006)
  • Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act, 2016
  • Operation Smile