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India's Child Porn Darknets

Child porn is hard to beat because it thrives in the "dark" Internet where, it is thriving unwatched.

India's Child Porn Darknets
India's Child Porn Darknets
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-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553

An autobiographical work I self-published three years back on my experience as a victim of child sexual abuse has made me a little famous among young mothers in my Punjab town. I am often buttonholed with queries such as, "What do I do to protect my little girl?" Or, "Who is the most likely aggressor?" It's not hard to discern their admiration — they seem thankful for my aggressive frankness in revealing how hypocrisy created ideal conditions for abusers. My problem is, how do I tell them, that in the world of our kids, my Punyaa's and others', technology and government apathy only exacerbate their vulnerability?

Child pornography is a grey area for the Indian media, making Indians complacent, as if it happens everywhere but here. Occasional reports don't echo its alarming penetration in India, though India is ranked among leading gobblers of Internet porn. Studies have borne out that little children of both sexes are easy meat in a pornified world.

An Indian government commissioned study reported in April 2007 that 53 per cent Indian children have been sexually abused. Most abusers are known to the victims. Can we connect this with India being also the world's fastest growing market for smart phones, and conclude that child porn is big time in India? You can't, because there aren't enough facts. Then again, you don't get the answers if you don't ask the questions.

Child porn is hard to beat because it thrives in the "dark" Internet where, it is thriving unwatched. You need specific software, configurations and authorisation to surf these "darknets" but let's not kid ourselves that only a small minority has been there. By all accounts, it's a parallel WTO out there for child pornographers, drug dealers, gun runners, fissile material traders and the like.

For a guesstimate, only visit the thriving mainstream porn sites. The home page of xvideos.com, reputedly the numero UNO of the genre, invites surfers to "Punjabi kuri sex with boyfriend", or "Andhra bhabhi  f****d by neighbour", or "Honeymoon couple enjoy suhaag raat". "Indian" sub-sites have thousands of scenes of graphic intimacy between apparently consenting adults. Maybe, many revelled filming themselves in coitus — a trend set by Pamela Anderson in the early days of the Internet. But a vast majority, it's quite apparent, are experimenting teenagers beguiled by strategically-placed cameras. Almost every day, in countless semi-urban bedrooms and cheap hotels there is born an "amateur" performer to satisfy rising demands for the "natural" look.

Adult girls committing suicide after being "exposed" on the web is not such a new story — but the plight of little ones filmed while being abused is yet to burst onto the public consciousness. It is not enough to "shudder at the thought" of streaming videos of three, four or seven year-olds being raped, one must think of the consequences when "darknets" become easy to access, with configurations and passwords passed around in friendly banter.

The law, so far as Internet pornography is concerned, is an ass. Indian lawmakers have been caught enjoying porn right in the well of a legislative assembly, which explains the inaction and arguments that its "impractical" to block them out. Child pornography, even surfing for it, is explicitly illegal under the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008.  But what can you say about a society that willingly surrenders its right to be proactive in an age where rogue technology keeps a step ahead of regulation?

Through the boom years of Internet porn we suffered the ostrich-like stand of the UPA government which refused to act despite evidence that it is possible to block porn on a continuous basis (China, South Korea) or regulate it with special measures (Britain). The reaction of our feminists was most surprising. Their stoicism was mixed with dollops of liberal fluff over "free choice" and even "rising female preference" to "romantic porn".

In the early days of the Modi government we heard some talk of initiating the long-postponed war on Internet porn. But eight months have passed since the Internet and Mobile Association was asked to draw up a list of sites which could be passed on to ISPs for blocking. If this is the standard response system then young moms like me shudder to think of the tougher fight against the darknets.

We have already seen the Janus faced attitude of government and society in its dealing with crimes against women. After the "Nirbhaya" tragedy the archaic laws that governed rapes against adult women were amended to ensure speedier justice. But nothing has changed for minor victims. Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 a little girl of two or three is still subjected to the two-finger rule and expected to recount her ordeal repeatedly before doctors, layers of police and an imperious judiciary. Often a child victim does not get her day in court till months have elapsed and by then her memory is blurry and inadmissible.

Little ones are among deadlier wolves today. At least my "shame" was limited to a few forked-tongued relatives dwelling on "family honour". Kids these days are up against an empire. Back then, evil took on human forms, these days it comes in the grotesque imagery of a Ninja film.


Shruti Chopra's Battered Existence (Author House, 2012) is available on goodreads.com

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