With laws, more social awareness needed to curb child pornography in South Asia

We have strict laws but it is quite difficult to control child pornography based on only laws. We must create social awareness to stop this horrific crime, writes Monira Nazmi Jahan for South Asia Monitor

Monira Nazmi Jahan Mar 20, 2020

Child pornography is becoming a terrible social evil across the world. Child pornography is most often made by taking pictures or videos or, more rarely, sound recordings of scantily clad children, often having sex. Child pornography sometimes also comprises images of children being sexually abused. Child pornography can be drawn, written, or created by a computer, in which case, it is called "simulated child pornography" or "virtual child pornography," where the images are simulated.

There are several possible reasons people look at child pornography. The most common is that the viewer is a paedophile, hebephile, or ephebophile, who finds minors sexually attractive and uses pornography featuring minors to induce arousal.

A paedophile can be categorized in three ways. The first is the secretive paedophile, who leads a normal life, often with wife and children, and uses child pornography to gratify him. The second category of paedophile collects child pornography, sexual images or videos, for their own sexual satisfaction. This type also may never actually physically harm a child. The most dangerous type is the active paedophile: They actually create child pornography by taking videos or taking photographs of sexual acts against or with the child. Occasionally, a person who plans to commit statutory rape may plan to show the pornography to a minor to try and convince the minor that it is normal for minors to have sex with adults.

In Bangladesh, there are a few provisions to prosecute someone for child pornography. The Pornography Control Act 2012 is enacted against those who use any child to produce, distribute pornography or any person who produces, distributes, stores, sells or advertises any child pornography. The person can be punished for a maximum of 10 years rigorous imprisonment and fined up to 500,000 taka. If someone uses the internet, mobile phones or electronic devices to distribute pornography, they can be punished up to a maximum of 5 years rigorous imprisonment and fined up to 200,000 taka. According to the Digital Security Act 2018, any person using electronic networks to transmit such pornography shall also be punished under this Act.

In India, the crime is dealt with The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO), where offenders committing such crimes have been divided into categories. POCSO has provision for punishment up to rigorous life imprisonment and stiff fines. Anyone storing child pornography material for commercial purposes faces up to three years’ imprisonment, with or without fine.

The Maldives has a ‘Special Provisions Act to Deal with Child Sex Abuse Offenders, Act number 12/2009’. This Act states that a person is guilty of such an act if he/she intentionally runs child prostitution, involves children in the creation of pornography or displays children’s sexual organs shall be punished for between 20 and 25 years of imprisonment.

Nepal prosecutes this crime through its ‘Act Relating to Children, 2018.’ Convictions are for using children in pornography and to distribute, store or use actual or fictitious obscene pictures or audio-visual materials of children. This is punished with imprisonment up to 15 years and fines up to 150,000 rupees.

In Pakistan, child pornography is prosecuted under the ‘Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act, 2016’. Those who involve children, with or without their consent in such activities, can be prosecuted. The law provides punishment for two to seven years imprisonment and/or fines from 200,000 to 700,000.

Child pornography in Bhutan is not explicitly addressed under their municipal laws. The Penal Code of Bhutan 2004, amended in 2011, penalizes all kinds of pornography, including child pornography, under the provisions of computer pornography and the offence shall be deemed to be a misdemeanor, carrying a sentence between one and three years. Child Pornography is also prohibited under the ‘Child Care and Protection Act’ 1998.

In Sri Lanka, ‘The Penal Code’ de facto criminalizes child pornography and has a penalty of two to 10 years and may also be liable to fine.

Afghanistan, which amended its Penal Code in 2017, has imposed stiff fines for disseminating child pornography: medium-term imprisonment of up to two years or a fine of from AFG60, 000 toAFG120, 000.

To remove this crime of child pornography from society, children should be educated properly so that they do not become a prey to offenders, not in person nor in virtual life. Teenagers should be under guidance of their parents so that they do not become addicted to pornography.

According to Travis Hirschi's Social Bond Theory, people's relationships, commitments, values, norms, and beliefs encourage them not to break the law. The youth will be discouraged to commit a crime or break moral code if he/she has good attachments with their parents, teachers and peer groups. Additionally, belief in God and the law will also help youths not to become delinquent. It is our duty as citizens of civilized societies to help the law enforcement agencies and criminal justice system to remove this disease from our society and save our young generation.

While all South Asian countries have fairly sound laws for controlling this crime, it remains widespread. India has the most amended provisions, while the Maldives provides minute details to stop child pornography. Bangladesh has a good piece of legislation; however, it also has space to broaden the laws for controlling child pornography. We have strict laws but it is quite difficult to control child pornography based on only laws. We must create social awareness to stop this horrific crime.

(The writer is Senior Lecturer, Department of Law, East West University, Bangladesh)

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