Any sexually explicit digital or computer generated content involving children will come under the purview of “child pornography”, according to a new definition proposed by the government in a bid to convey the message of zero tolerance towards it. In the proposed changes in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, the Women and Child Development Ministry has defined child pornography and enhanced punishment for its possession and distribution, a ministry spokesperson said.
The Union Cabinet had on Wednesday approved the amendments to the POCSO Act. According to the new definition, child pornography is “any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a child which includes photograph, video, digital or computer generated image indistinguishable from an actual child and an image created, adapted or modified but appear to depict a child”.
The initiative to define child pornography has been taken by WCD Minister Smriti Irani to convey the message that from now there will be zero tolerance for child pornography and for that reason definition of child pornography was essential, the ministry spokesperson said. She said that definition leads to setting the context of the crime.
“Only prescribing punishment leads to possibility that the case may get entangled in inconclusive legal battles. It also underlines and enforces citizens responsibility to report and destroy, because not reporting is an evidence of crime,” she said.
The ministry has also revised fines for possessing and distributing child pornography. Fine with the intent to transmit, possess porn in any form but fail to delete or destroy is at least Rs 5,000 for first offence and Rs 10,000 for repeated offenders. “The upper limit of fine has not been set,” the spokesperson said.
Fine for any person who transmits or distributes child porn except the ones producing it as evidence in court would face imprisonment of three years with fine. Earlier, the fine for possessing child pornography was between Rs 1000-3000.
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved amendments to strengthen the POCSO Act by including death penalty for aggravated sexual assault on children, besides providing stringent punishments for other crimes against minors, officials said. It would now be presented in the Lok Sabha next week.
The modification in the law will address the need for stringent measures against rising trend of child sex abuse in the country and combat the menace of relatively new kind of crimes, the government said, stressing that the strong penal provisions will act as a deterrent. “It intends to protect the interests of vulnerable children in times of distress and ensures their safety and dignity. The amendment is aimed at establishing clarity regarding the aspects of child abuse and punishment thereof,” it said.
The government, in a statement, had said the amendments in Section-2, 4, 5, 6, 9, 14, 15, 34,42 and 45 of the POCSO Act, 2012 are being made to address the aspects of child sexual abuse in an appropriate manner. “Section-4, 5 and 6 are proposed to be amended to provide option of stringent punishment, including death penalty, for committing sexual assault and aggravated penetrative sexual assault crime on a child to protect the children from sexual abuse,” it said.
The amendments are also proposed in Section-9 to protect children from sexual offences in times of natural calamities and other similar situations and in cases where children are administered, in any way, any hormone or any chemical substance, to attain early sexual maturity for the purpose of penetrative sexual assault, the statement said.
“Section-14 and Section-15 of the POCSO Act, 2012 are also proposed to be amended to address the menace of child pornography. It is proposed to levy fine for not destroying or deleting or reporting the pornographic material involving a child with an intention to share or transmit it,” the government said.