Adolescent girls and boys within 14-18 years, belonging to the lower income strata, were figured as the most vulnerable group
The COVID-19 pandemic has put children at risk of online sexual exploitation and abuse (OCSEA), found a new report. OCSEA has extended its presence across India during the pandemic and the extent of such crimes is becoming a matter of grave concern, stated the study jointly conducted by CRY — Child Rights and You and Chanakya National Law University, Patna.
Online exposure for children with less or no parental supervision during lockdown enabled online perpetrators to identify the victims, get access to their personal details and connect to them.
Also read: International Girl Child Day: Crimes against girls on the rise in India, especially eastern states
“It is exactly in this context that the study places itself on tracking the shift in child sexual abuse to online mode in the cross-section of the period initiating from the onset of the COVID pandemic,” said Puja Marwaha, the chief executive at CRY, in a press statement.
Adolescent girls and boys within 14-18 years, belonging to the lower income strata were figured as the most vulnerable age group, according to POCSO and Beyond: Understanding Online Safety during COVID report relesased January 18, 2023.
A third or nearly 33 per cent of the parents among the respondents reported that strangers approached their children via online platforms.
In most cases, the perpetrators tried to solicit friendships, fish for personal and family details and broach up sexual advice concerning relationships. And children were shared inappropriate content and were dragged into sexual conversations online.
For the parents who had shared that their children have indicated experiences of OCSEA, responses were received more from rural areas than urban areas, with both male and female respondents accounting for such incidents, the press statement read.
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When asked what actions they would probably take if their children encountered OCSEA, just 30 per cent of the parents said they would go to the police station and file a complaint, while a whopping 70 per cent ruled out that possibility.
Furthermore, only 16 per cent of parents claimed to be familiar with any OCSEA-related laws, indicating a lack of information and faith in the legal system and law enforcement.
Soha Moitra, director of development support at CRY and the head of its regional operations in the North, underscored the importance of reforming the existing legal frameworks.
“Now, with the internet use in trafficking, especially among younger children, as indicated in this study, the provisions may need to be re-evaluated,” Moitra said.
The provisions under Information Technology Act, 2000 and the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956 do not talk specifically of children but are general in nature.
“Many POCSO offences are committed for or as a consequence of trafficking. There is a need to clearly engage with such interlinkages in definitions of OCSEA offences under IPC (Indian Penal Code) and POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences),” Moitra noted.
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