A panel of lawmakers has been formed in India who, after discussions with the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, telecom sector regulator TRAI and social media platforms, will submit a report on online safety of children in a month.
Rajya Sabha chairman and Vice President Venkaiah Naidu has converted the informal panel into an ad hoc committee. “All rules relating to the Select Committee on Bill would now apply to the panel,” said an ET report quoting Naidu.
This has been done in the wake of increasing cases of online sexual abuse and exploitation of children in the country. With the rise of social media platforms, especially messaging apps, the cases of online sexual abuse and exploitation of children, have gone up.
About 24 lakh instances of online child sexual abuse were reported from India in 2017, as per Interpol. Close to 80% of these children were girls under the age of 14.
And such cases are growing because of the ease with which offenders can post graphic images of children online.
New research released in November placed India at the top of the list of countries from where the maximum number of reports (38.8 lakh) related to suspected online child sexual abuse imagery (CSAI) originated.
Internet and technology have become ubiquitous, permeating almost all the aspects of our lives. While it has created unique opportunities for everyone- adults and children alike to learn and explore the world around them, it has an intrinsic opposite dimension to it- sexual exploitation of children.
In the past two meetings with members, the panel discussed major reasons for the growth of child sex abuse and looked at global best practices in dealing with online safety for children.
Members of the panel include Vinay P Shasrabuddhe, Jaya Bachchan, Rajeev Chandrashekar, MV Rajeev Gauda, Roopa Ganguly, Tiruchi Siva, Vandana Chavan and Vijila Sathyanath.
Last month, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) set up an online child sexual abuse and Exploitation (OCSAE) prevention and Investigation unit.
This specialized unit will collect, collate and disseminate information regarding publication, transmission, creation, promoting, exchanging, distribution of information relating to online child sexual abuse and exploitation.
Strong commitment from the government is needed to tackle the issue of online child sexual abuse. India is still a country where activists primarily lead action or discourses around most issues.