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The Adhoc Committee of the Rajya instituted by Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu has made 40 far reaching recommendations to prevent sexual abuse of children and to contain access to and transmission of child pornography content on social media. The report of the Committee was presented by the Chairman of the Committee Jai Ram Ramesh to Naidu. Expressing concern over the seriousness of the prevalence of the horrific social evil of child pornography, the Committee has recommended important amendments to the Protection of Children From Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and the Information Technology Act, 2000 besides technological, institutional, social and educational measures and state level initiatives to address the alarming issue of pornography on social media and its effects on children and the society as a whole. Forty recommendations have been made by the Adhoc Committee to deal with the issue.

Exposure to pornography is harmful to children of all ages!

  • Seeing unfamiliar looking bodies engaging in acts that a child cannot comprehend is a confusing and frightening experience for a child or adolescent.
  • Children or adolescents may experience autonomic sexual arousal at the sight of pornography, which can confuse them into thinking they “like” what they see, when in fact their bodies are reacting instinctively without the “approval” of their brain.
  • Children and adolescents can become “de-sensitized” to pornography exposure and this can result in acting out sexualized behaviors with other children and engaging in high-risk sexual experiences by adolescents.
  • Adults who choose to view adult pornography have an obligation to ensure that children cannot possibly access it. Lockup written material, clear browsers, and use every technological resources possible. Use of adult pornography or other sexually explicit materials in a home should never be accessible to children.

The family and pornography:

  • Married men who are involved in pornography feel less satisfied with their conjugal relations and less emotionally attached to their wives. Wives notice and are upset by the difference.
  • Pornography use is a pathway to infidelity and divorce, and is frequently a major factor in these family disasters.
  • Among couples affected by one spouse’s addiction, two-thirds experience a loss of interest in sexual intercourse.
  • Both spouses perceive pornography viewing as tantamount to infidelity.
  • Pornography viewing leads to a loss of interest in good family relations.

The individual and pornography:

  • Pornography is addictive, and neuroscientists are beginning to map the biological substrate of this addiction.
  • Users tend to become desensitized to the type of pornorgraphy they use, become bored with it, and then seek more perverse forms of pornography.
  • Men who view pornography regularly have a higher tolerance for abnormal sexuality, including rape, sexual aggression, and sexual promiscuity.
  • Prolonged consumption of pornography by men produces stronger notions of women as commodities or as “sex objects.”
  • Pornography engenders greater sexual permissiveness, which in turn leads to a greater risk of out-of-wedlock births and STDs. These, in turn, lead to still more weaknesses and debilities.
  • Child-sex offenders are more likely to view pornography regularly or to be involved in its distribution.

Effects of exposure:

  • In the absence of other information, pornography can be the main source of a young person’s sex education.
  • The use of pornography by adolescents is associated with stronger permissive sexual attitudes (e.g., premarital sex, casual sex). There is some evidence that exposure to pornography can increase the likelihood of earlier first-time sexual experience, particularly for those adolescents who consume pornography more frequently.
  • Pornography can influence a young person’s expectations about sex, for example what young men expect their partners to do and vice versa.
  • Pornography is also associated with unsafe sexual health practices such as not using condoms and unsafe anal and vaginal sex.
  • Gaps between expectations and reality can produce “sexual uncertainty” about sexual beliefs and values and may also be related to sexual dissatisfaction, anxiety and fear. The content of pornography may reinforce double standards of an active male sexuality and passive female receptacle.
  • Both male and female consumers of pornography had increased levels of self-objectification and body surveillance.
  • Adolescent pornography use is associated with stronger beliefs in gender stereotypes, particularly for males. Male adolescents who view pornography frequently are more likely to view women as sex objects and to hold sexist attitudes such as women “leading men on”.
  • Pornography may strengthen attitudes supportive of sexual violence and violence against women. There is evidence of an association between consuming pornography and perpetrating sexual harassment for boys.
  • Sexual preoccupation, compulsive consumption and “addiction” can be associated with the frequency of viewing pornography and also the purposes of using pornography

Way Forward:

  • Parents can make a vast and positive difference by talking with their children. Like sexuality education in general, the topic of pornography is not one big talk but rather a series of discussions that easily can arise from the content of songs, music videos, video games, movies and unintended or intended exposure to sexually explicit images.
  • Parents can help their children develop a critical eye when viewing media, so they see the lies, and differentiate that fiction from the joy in loving equitable and respectful relationships.
  • National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal shall be designated as the national portal under-reporting requirements in the POCSO Act in case of electronic material
  • Union Government shall be empowered through its designated authority to block and/or prohibit all websites/intermediaries that carry child sexual abuse material
  • Law enforcement agencies should be permitted to brake end to end encryption to trace distributors of child pornography. Apps that help in monitoring children’s access to pornographic content shall be made mandatory on all devices sold in India. Such Apps or similar solutions to be developed and made freely available to ISP, companies, schools and parents.
  • Ministry of Electronics and IT and Ministry of Home Affairs shall coordinate with Blockchain analysis companies to trace identities of users engaging in cryptocurrency transactions to purchase child pornography online. Online payment portals and credit cards are prohibited from processing payments for any pornographic website.
  • All social media platforms should be mandated with minimum essential technologies to detect Child Sexual Abuse Material besides regular reporting to law enforcement agencies in the country.
  • On-streaming platforms like Netflix and social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook etc. should have a separate adult section where under-aged children could be disallowed.
  • The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shall mandatorily record and report annually cases of child pornography of all kinds. A national Tipline Number should be created where child sexual abuse, as well as the distribution of child pornographic material, can be reported by concerned citizens.
  • Ministries of Women and Child Development and Information and Broadcasting shall launch campaigns for greater awareness among parents to recognize early signs of child abuse, online risks and improving online safety for their child.
  • Schools shall undertake training programmes for parents at least twice a year, making them aware of hazards for children of free access to smartphones, internet at an early age. Based on the experiences of other countries, a proper practicable policy for restricting the use of smartphones by under-aged kids needs to be considered.