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Centre should act swiftly on sexual abuse of children

Centre should act swiftly on sexual abuse of children
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The ad hoc committee of the Rajya Sabha instituted by its Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu has made 40 far-reaching recommendations to prevent sexual abuse...

The ad hoc committee of the Rajya Sabha instituted by its Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu has made 40 far-reaching recommendations to prevent sexual abuse of children and to contain access to and transmission of child pornography content on the social media.

The initiative of Venkaiah Naidu in setting up of such a committee to examine and report on an issue of such a wider social concern is the first of its kind and has been widely appreciated. Jairam Ramesh, who headed the committee, stated that it was a good model that can be followed from time to time to get members of Rajya Sabha to deliberate on pressing social issues.

Expressing concern over the seriousness of the prevalence of the horrific social evil of child pornography, the committee has recommended important amendments to the Protection of Children From Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and the Information Technology Act, 2000 besides suggesting technological, institutional, social and educational measures and State level initiatives to address the alarming issue of pornography on social media and its effects on children and the society as a whole.

The 40 recommendations made by the ad hoc committee relate to adoption of a broader definition of child pornography, controlling access for children to such content, containing generation and dissemination of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM), making accountable the internet service providers and online platforms for denying access to children and removing such obscene content from online sites besides monitoring, detection and removal of content, preventing under-age use of such content, enabling parents for early detection of accessing such content by children, enabling effective action by the governments and authorised agencies to take necessary preventive and penal measures etc.

Noting that the purveyors of child pornography seem always to be one step ahead of the regulators, the committee stressed on the need for implementation of its recommendations as an integrated package of measures and not piecemeal to have any value and impact.

The committee urged the Prime Minister to take up the subject of child pornography and the measures required to combat it in one of his forthcoming 'Mann Ki Baat' broadcast besides taking the lead in building up a global political alliance to combat child pornography on social media like the International Solar Alliance initiative.

The committee has broadly sought to address two main issues viz., access of children to pornographic material on social media and circulation of pornographic material on social media in which children are abused. It is important that the committee's legislative recommendations and IT recommendations be implemented at the earliest.

As suggested, a clause should be inserted in the POCSO Act, 2012 under which advocating or counselling sexual activities with a person under the age of 18 years through any written material, visual representation or audio recording or any characterisation is made an offence under the Act.

It is also suggested that punitive measures be adopted under the IT Act. Most important of these recommendations is that the enforcement agencies be permitted to break end to end encryption to trace distributors of child pornography. Wish the government quickly moves on this count.

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