At least 34 children have been subjected to online abuse as of September this year
Laws to prevent online abuse of children are hindering justice as they lack proper definitions of abuses for the judicial process, speakers at a virtual discussion have said.
The law needs to be updated as it remains far behind an ever-increasing range of cyber abuses, they added.
The discussion, titled “Online child abuse and torture: Reality, legal restrictions and duties,” was organized by Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) as part of the “16 days of activism against gender-based violence” campaign.
According to data from nine national dailies collected by ASK, at least 34 children have been subjected to online abuse as of September this year, as compared to0 47 last year. Experts believe the number of cases this year is under-reported due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Presenting the keynote paper, ASK Child Rights Unit (CRU) Coordinator Ambica Roy said research by UNICEF published in 2019 found 32% of children who use internet facilities have been abused.
Citing a discussion by INGO Article 19, she also said 70% of women who are harassed are aged 15-25.
The Office of the Controller of Certificates Authorities (CCA) under the Department of Information and Communication Technology claimed in a consultation meeting on the 1-1 project on December 2, 2020 that 73% of the women who use internet are subjected to abuse. Most of them are school and college students, the ASK official said.
Online abuse includes cyber grooming, sextortion, body shaming, cyber bullying, cyber stalking, blackmail, coercing, child pornography, she added.
Limitations in laws
Ambica Roy said three laws – the Children Act 2013 (amendment 2018), Pornography Control Act (2012) and Digital Security Act (DSA 2018) are said to protect the interest of the children online. None of the laws have defined online abuses properly, while new forms of abuse are emerging.
“The Children Act 2013 did not say anything about online abuse but made it mandatory that trial of a child must be conduct at Children’s Court. The pornography act did not define the abuses. Besides, they kept the trial procedure for children and adults the same,” she said, mentioning that criminals can use the lack of definitions to exploit loopholes.
“The DSA 2018 was a pure disappointment for us, because they were more focused on national issues and so it largely avoids the child abuse issue. Besides, the trial issues were not clear as well,” Ambica added.
She further stressed the need for more manpower at the Children’s Court.
Speakers at the program urged to implement the laws properly and update them as soon as possible.
Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit Deputy Commissioner (Cyber Crime) Nazmul Hossain said a mutual legal assistance treaty was required to stop transnational cyber abuse.
Chief guest of the program and Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission Nasima Begum suggested special training on dealing with child abuse cases for judges and law enforcement officials.
The speakers also emphasized the need for making international cyber service providers follow local laws and provide information to the government when needed.