Mumbai: India has been under a tight lockdown since March 23 to fight the Corona Pandemic. Latest data has however revealed a rather disturbing trend. The India Child Protection Fund (ICPF) – set up in January 2020 by Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s son Bhuvan Ribhu – has found a steep increase in demand for searches like “child porn”, “sexy child” and “teen sex videos,” along with an increase in traffic on Pornhub from India by 95 % between March 24-26, 2020, as compared to before the lockdown in the report titled “Child Sexual Abuse Material in India” which maps trends from 100 Indian cities and towns including New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Indore among others.
Maharashtra’s Home Minister Anil Deshmukh – who has already overseen the starting of the special ‘Operation Blackface since mid-January to flush out such child pornographers and paedophiles making the state number one in targeting child porn – expressed concern over the “high demand” for child porn searches. “The Maharashtra Cyber Cell has already been told to double its efforts as the Home Ministry understands this will be a major potential threat to children stuck at home because of the lockdown. The spike in child porn consumption during the lockdown period shows the huge presence of paedophiles, child rapists and child pornography addicts online. This makes the internet – which is used for everything from playing indoor games, socialising and online classes by children – extremely unsafe for them because of the threat of cyber-trafficking, grooming (the act of befriending a child, and sometimes the family, to lower the child’s inhibitions with the objective of sexual abuse), sextortion, sexting, live streaming of child sexual abuse,” Deshmukh said and added, “We are taking urgent steps to tighten stringency to prevent a drastic rise in sexual crimes against children. The cybercrime department of the Maharashtra police registered 133 cases and arrested 46 people under IPC Section. 292 (prurient creation of lascivious images), Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO) Act and the IT Act during the lockdown. More arrests will follow after investigations.”
Of the 133 cases registered one is from Akola (IPC Section. 292); 41 are from Pimpri Chinchwad, Aurangabad, Parbhani, Pune, Nagpur (POSCO) and 91 are from Mumbai, Kolhapur, Amravati, Ahmednagar, Raigad, Nashik rural, Nashik, Gondia, Beed, Bhandara, Parbhani, Nandurbar, Chandrapur, Latur, Thane Rural, Amravati Rural, Solapur Rural, Solapur, Hingoli, Navi Mumbai, Dhule, Palghar, Nashik rural, Jalna, Washim, Satara, Jalgaon, Pune Rural, Buldhana, Nagpur Rural, Wardha, Thane, Sangli, Ratnagiri, Yavatmal and Latur (IT Act).
The Home Minister Deshmukh explained how the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has appointed a nodal officer in each state. In Maharashtra, this is DGP (Maharashtra Cyber). “The US-based NGO – National Centre For Missing & Exploited Children which keeps an eye on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc to track ISP addresses of child pornographers shares the same with NCRB. The Bureau then liaises with the nodal officer for further action. Such focused action with detailed coordination at the international, national and state-level has led to successfully cracking down on child pornographers.”
The Home Minister also asked parents to be alert when children surf the internet. “Spend time online together so that children pick up appropriate online behaviour from you. The computer/tab which children use should be kept in a place where the parents can watch what it is being used for. Monitor any time spent on smartphones or tablets and look for patterns,” he said and added, “It is a good idea to bookmark children’s favourite sites for easy access and comb through credit card/phone bills for any unfamiliar account charges. Find out what, if any, online protection is offered by your child’s school, after-school centre, friends’ homes or any place where kids could use a computer without your supervision,” he said and added, “Take your daughter/son seriously if s/he tells you of any uncomfortable online exchange. Investigate more and escalate by contacting the local police/ Maharashtra cyber cell about the issue.”