Photo for representational purposes only, courtesy Unsplash
Warning: This article describes issues around sexual assault. For support, reach out to Childline India on 1098 or email@example.com.
India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested a junior civil engineer on Tuesday, Nov. 17, for allegedly sexually abusing 50 children over a period of 10 years. The accused, named Rambhawan, is a government employee in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (UP). He was also accused of filming his acts and selling child sexual abuse material (CSAM) on the darknet.
Government data shows that at least 100 children are sexually abused every day in India. Watching and sharing CSAM is a criminal offence, inviting a five-year jail term and a fine of up to INR 1 million ($13,490).
Officials from the country’s top government investigative agency told the media that the abused children were aged between five and 16 years. The survivors came from Banda, Chitrakoot and Hamirpur districts in UP. The CBI also believes that Rambhawan was working in collusion with other unknown persons.
A raid at the accused’s house unearthed eight mobile phones, INR 800,000 ($10,763) in cash, a laptop, web-camera, sex toys and a “large volume” of CSAM. The CBI officials also stated that Rambhawan was in touch with several individuals, both Indian and foreign nationals, for the purpose of sharing child pornography. It’s believed that Rambhawan used cloud storage services of mega-nz and box.com to store CSAM.
Mega-nz recently shared data of a suspended user with the New Zealand government for a child abuse investigation. International media has previously reported how mega-nz is a preferred choice among criminal groups or communities for sharing files such as revenge porn or hacked files. The service gives the users end-to-end encryption as well as large free plans of storage.
Rambhawan works at the Irrigation Department in UP, and is a resident of UP’s Chitrakoot district.
Another interrogation revealed that the man used to bribe the survivors with electronic gadgets to buy their silence. Over the years, he is said to have created a large collection of photographs and videos, and even shared them via social media.
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) under the Indian law protects children from such kinds of incidents. However, incidents of child sexual abuse and CSAM have been on the rise.
According to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights data, there was a 95 percent increase in online child porn traffic during the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown in India. In the southern Indian state of Kerala, police noted a spike in child pornography cases during the lockdown and initiated “P Hunt 20.2” operation to crackdown on the criminals. Child abuse has routinely emerged from private as well as government-run child care institutions—with 40 percent of them having no measure to protect the children.
Early this year, a report by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the U.S., and India’s National Crime Records Bureau had found that the Indian states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal are the top states for uploading CSAM.
Last month, the CBI registered a case against a man in Mumbai for allegedly exploiting children of different nationalities by selling their sexually explicit images online. The survivors were based out of the U.S., Europe and South Asia, among other regions. Early this week, it was reported that as many as 52 teachers in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh have been booked under the POCSO over the last decade.
Recently, Manforce, an Indian pharma company known for its condom range, launched a campaign amid the surge in CSAM during the pandemic. The same month, the Delhi High Court ordered Facebook and Google to remove a woman’s revenge porn images online after they were posted by her ex-boyfriend. The woman was a minor when the photos were taken.
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Via Vice News