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Child Porn: Think of a way to crush that ‘Thorn’

Monitoring Internet
* Judiciary, Police, NCPA, TRC play responsible role
* NCPA responsible for crackdown on child pornography
* NCPA ‘Cyber Watch Unit’ monitoring websites
* Over 400 child porn sites blocked

by Prasad Gunewardene

(November 02, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian)
Criminals use the Internet to achieve ulterior motives. No nation could monitor thousands of child pornographic sites nor arrest a million offenders in a day. Child pornography is certainly a heinous crime.

In Sri Lanka, new laws are urgently needed to combat this growing menace. In addition, parental control over children is a top priority in a child’s agenda. Educative material on the dangers posed by child porn should be included in a social subject at school. The judicial system in the country should also play a vibrant role in the exercise to build a better child for tomorrow.

National level

Let us not put the blame on any institution or body that helps to curb this menace. However, we got to be analytical in evaluating the responsibilities cast upon such institutions at national level. There are four bodies involved in the exercise to curb the menace of child pornography.

They are; the Judiciary, Police, National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) and the Sri Lanka Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRC). Of the four, the TRC is only an executing authority on judicial determinations.

The practical and meaningful roles are played by the Police and the NCPA as the two key authorities who bring the detections and culprits before the judiciary for determination. A study on the statute that covers the TRC reveals that it has no legal status or teeth to combat this growing menace. It’s only a regulatory authority for the development of the telecommunication sector. The Telecommunication Act was last amended in 1996 by Act No 27.

Fourteen years have lapsed and the amendments moved to Paragraph (5), too are quite outdated to meet the potential dangers posed by the expanding electronic device called ‘Internet’.

The provisions of the ‘Obscene Art Act’ too had not been amended to meet the increasing rates in that respect. Neither of these Acts have teeth to deal with the current crises with regard to child porn and obscene material. However, the NCPA enjoys the exclusive right to crackdown on child porn by virtue of a Convention signed by the Government on May 8, 2002 through which the NCPA was recognized as the Central Agency for the Protection of Children. The Convention ratified the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitute and Child Pornography. Accordingly, the NCPA installed its own ‘Cyber Watch Unit’ to monitor websites to move forward to curb the menace of child porn.

Let us now recall how the lid was blown off the child porn menace that embraced the country through Internet.

The incumbent Director-General of the TRC, Anusha Pelpita as the then Director-General of Information in 2009 with the assistance of the Colombo University detected 20 child porn sites that had Sri Lankan children in sexual acts.

He immediately reported the matter with DVD form of evidence to President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The President promptly directed the Inspector General of Police Mahinda Balasuriya to take swift action to curb the menace. The IGP directed the NCPA to move forward to obtain a determination from court to ban those sites. That was the beginning on the crackdown on child pornography.

It was only in May this year, an Advisor on Psychology Saman Gamage sent another report on the subject to the President to which the Head of State took further action. Pelpita on assuming office as Head of the TRC in May this year continued to assist the Police and the NCPA and executed all court orders obtained by the NCPA to block over 400 child porn sites as per judgment.

“We have implemented all judgments expeditiously and more than 400 child porn sites are blocked”, he noted. With that being the current status in the child porn scenario, the urgent need is to enact tough laws to curb the menace.

The existing laws are outdated to meet dangers of child porn on the Internet which has reached unprecedented levels globally. Even in developed countries where Internet is viewed as ‘food’, no measures have been found to eradicate the menace totally.

Child porn sites

Laws must be introduced to force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to remove any material that could be assumed as child pornography.

The Police must be given teeth through judicial recommendation to forfeit material and equipment of ISPs which contravene the law. A code of conduct for Internet Service Providers should be made mandatory by law.

A debate on child pornography is an exercise to the gallery that does not pay dividends. Authorities must stop pandering and go before the Legal Draftsman at the earliest to enact laws to curb this growing menace.

Theoretical arguments to blame each other will only aggravate the crisis. Then the statistics which quantify the scale of human anguish and child victims will no doubt expand in alarming proportions just as the Internet has done. Tell a Friend

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