BJP MP seeks Centre’s intervention to curb ‘digital sexual abuse’

New Delhi: Rajya Sabha Member and senior BJP leader Rajeev Chandrashekhar has written to Union Law and Information Technology (IT) Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, drawing his attention towards the growing problem of digital sexual abuse.

“I draw your attention to the vital issue of safety of our children and the threats posed by the growing digital sexual abuse of children online, a threat that merits urgent scrutiny and intervention by your Ministry and the Government,” he states in the letter.

He has sought Prasad’s intervention to regulate and shut down mobile applications which pose a threat to the safety of children. Chandrashekhar also requested the IT Minister to do the needful for curbing the igniting issue.

Quoting a media report, Chandrashekar said that there is an exponential growth in short video mobile applications and due to their ‘free availability’ and ‘simple user interface’ these apps become the easily accessible and finally the breeding ground for grooming underage children for the acts of pornography. He cited the example of applications such as Kwai, Clip, TikTok, NewsDog, LiveMe, and Helo.

“Such Apps have a high demand from vernacular entertainment consumers in different states in India. The abusers try to contact children using these vernacular languages. With the easy availability of internet and smartphones, there has been a surge in cases of child sexual abuse, harassment, bullying, and blackmail where the perpetrator finds his victim on one of the available social video apps.” Chandrasekhar stated in the letter.

“According to Interpol, around 2.4 million instances of online child sexual abuse were reported from India in 2017. US-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also reported that over 24.46 lakh children were abused in 2017 in India. These are just the reported cases. There could be many that go unreported,” he further writes in the letter.

The Rajya Sabha Member suggested the government to create a permanent institutional framework to monitor and regulate online content that falls under the category of Digital Exploitation of Children. He also advised to review and amend the IT Act, 2000 to provide strict penalties to intermediaries who facilitate such content and strengthen legal framework including Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act.

Further, Chandrashekhar asked the Central government to immediately initiate extensive consultations and awareness programmes and draft well-crafted roles for each group including the Internet Service Providers (ISPs), the police, parents, schools etc.

He asked the IT Minister and the government to direct intermediaries such as Google and Apple to take strict measures for removing and banning such apps from their app stores which allow the exchange of child pornographic images, videos and enable pedophiles to ‘groom’ the children.

“The research also suggests that people who seek children online could eventually go on to harm a child in real life, therein making the transition from a content offence to a contact offence,” Chandrashekhar further wrote in the letter.