The Supreme Court recently directed the Union government to block all child pornography websites. The excuse of technical difficulty in banning such sites would not be accepted as a ground for failure to comply with its order, the apex court said. Also that viewing pornography websites at public places in the name of freedom of speech and expression cannot be allowed and such persons should be booked for obscenity.
Majority of children who appear in child pornography have not been abducted or physically forced to participate in it. In most cases they know the exploiter, and are manipulated into taking part in it. Nevertheless, to be the subject of child pornography can have devastating physical, social and psychological effects on the children.
They are first victimised when their abuse is perpetrated and recorded. They are further victimised each time that record is accessed. In a study, 100 victims of child pornography were quizzed about the effects of their exploitation at the time it occurred and in later years. Victims described the physical pain (eg, around the genitals), somatic symptoms (such as headaches, loss of appetite and sleeplessness) and feelings of psychological distress (emotional isolation, anxiety and fear). However, most also felt a pressure to cooperate and not to disclose it, both out of loyalty to the offender and a sense of shame about their own behaviour. Only five cases were ultimately reported to authorities. In later years, the victims reported that initial feelings of shame and anxiety did not fade but intensified to feelings of deep despair, worthlessness and hopelessness. The experience had provided them with a distorted model of sexuality. Many had difficulties in establishing healthy relationships.
The effects of pornography on users have been extensively researched but results are contentious. There are at least five possible relationships between pornography use and sexual abuse of children:
* Pornography use is an expression of existing sexual interests.
* Pornography is used to prime the individual to offend.
* Pornography has a corrosive effect.
* Pornography has a cathartic effect.
* Pornography is a by-product of paedophilia: Pornography is created in the process of sexual abuse or is used to groom potential victims and prepare them for abuse. Pornography is incidental to the abuse.
Can child pornography be banned effectively?
Internet child pornography presents some unique challenges for law enforcement agencies.
- The internet is a decentralised system with no single controlling agency or storage facility. Because it is a network of networks, even if one pathway is blocked, many alternative pathways can be taken to reach the same destination.
- The internet crosses jurisdictional boundaries. Not only is cooperation among law enforcement agencies necessary to track offenders across jurisdictions, it is required to coordinate resources and avoid duplication of effort. Equally problematic is the issue of who is responsible for investigating child pornography on the internet when there is no clue as to where the images originate.
- The internet, by its nature, is difficult to regulate, but many jurisdictions are reluctant to introduce laws to control internet use. There are debates about the community’s protection on the one hand, and freedom of speech and commercial interests on the other. There is also legal ambiguity about whether ISPs should be held liable or merely regarded as the conduits.
- Control efforts are hampered by cross-jurisdictional differences in laws and levels of permissiveness regarding child pornography. Moreover, countries vary in their commitment to enforce laws and act against offenders.
- Offenders vary in the degree to which they employ security measures to avoid detection.
- Recent developments include remailers (servers that strip the sender’s identity from email) and file encryption (a method of hiding or scrambling data).
- The sheer amount of traffic in child pornography makes the task of tracking down every person who visits such a site impossible.