By Nennivah Hazvinei Jijita
Child pornography is a term that is heavy to process since many people assume pornography has everything to do with adults. Child pornography is not new phenomenon and it is on the rise in South Africa and it still remains an international challenge.
According to HG.org Legal Resources, ‘‘child pornography includes photographs, videos, digital downloads, images produced to depict an actual minor, undeveloped film and video and electronically stored data.
In this regard, sexual activity is not only needed for it to be considered child pornography. Under federal law, child pornography is the disregard for age of consent for sexual activity in a given state’’.
The age of consent is 12-16 years old. The films publication act of South Africa, states that “child pornography includes any image, however, created or any description of a person real or who is depicted, made to appear, look like, represented as being under the age of 18”.
It becomes a serious crime to be in possession or a willing participant in child pornography. The international law makes it clear that it is an offense for a minor to engage in any sexual acts whether by consent or force. It is highly unacceptable and intolerable.
Many people assume that child pornography can be created when a child is under duress or a result of child trafficking. Or, it happens when adults force themselves on children.
Research findings shows that in most cases children who appear in child pornography are not forced, they are brain washed until they are comfortable in performing such sexual activities.
Normally, the perpetrators are people who are known to the family of the children. In some instances, the children will be victims of child trafficking.
Almost, every year, people are charged for being in possession of child pornography. Worse still, some of the offenders are actual parents and guardians. This alone leaves a lot to be desired.
South African strides in protection of children
South Africa has made strides in adopting policies that ensure that children are protected from such harmful occurrences. The South African films act is clear cut on child abuse and pornography.
We have witnessed courts prosecuting those perpetrating, producing and distributing child pornography.
One triumphant case amongst others is last year when a certain man was found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in jail for having sex with minors, sexual grooming and possession of child pornography. In this particular case, the minors were forced to participate in explicit sexual encounters.
The South African law regarding child pornography is similar to the federal law which imprison offenders for 15-30 years. The level of punishment enforced by the states should send shivers to those who intend or are already promoting child pornography.
The continuous surfacing of child pornography in South Africa is really a sad development indeed.
This comes at a time when the country is battling with mitigating issues of sexually abused and violated children.
There have been numerous videos which have been reported to the police which are said to show child pornography. Recently, there is a reported video of a young girl not more than 9 years’ old who is said to be “willingly recording herself semi-nude performing an explicit, erotic, raunchy and provocative video”.
This has left many with more questions than answers and it also divided public opinion. The purported video is a serious cause for concern as far as children protection remains a millennium development goal.
The contents of the video are even more confusing because it is said that the child does not seem to be under any duress. It is said that “the moves are well calculated and words well-thought. The girl is totally aware of what she is doing”.
This video is a can be categorised as explicit sexual activity. It is “where there is a record of sexual activity involving children but not involving adults’’ according to HG.org Legal Resources.
The questions that come to mind quickly about the reported video are; who is the child and does she have family? Is the child a juvenile run away?
A case of neglect, abandonment or a result of excessive exposure to pornography? How did the video find its way on social media?
What about the videos of child pornography that we do not know of? There are no immediate answers to this and we may never get them. The girl child that is involved can be a case of juvenile, neglect, abandonment, child trafficking and exposed to excessive pornography.
If a child willingly record him/herself and leaks the video on social media, they break the law. The federal law is clear cut on issues of child pornography. It states that if a minor willingly records pornographic material and uploads it on social media they become an offender.
On the other hand, in South Africa, the law is more focused on adults abusing children. It does not clearly stipulate the consequences when the minor is the offender.
The African charter on child rights clearly states that a minor who breaks the law is subject to trial. Has South Africa ever faced such a scenario where they had to deal with a minor involved in filming pornographic activities?
Is this the scourge of the far-fetched
Child pornography seems like a far-fetched thing. A foreign thing to many. Either we choose to accept it now or later, our eyes and ears need to be opened. Child pornography is a reality and it is happening right under our noses.
Since it has come to attention that child pornography is not a new phenomenon are we prepared adequately to deal with it given all the technological advancements? How do we come to terms with cases of minors willingly recording themselves?
In such cases, the child becomes the subject of child pornography. How do we deal with such without victimising the child?
Do we have the capacity to deal with child pornography where the minor is the subject?
Another thing, the South African films act should be clear on procedures to take when one finds child pornography in their phones.
Many people will delete such videos as fast for fear of being in possession of child pornography.
This means that the minor will not get the help they need ASAP if no one comes forward to the relevant authorities. I suggest that measures should be put in place to ensure that people who finds child pornography landing unexpectedly in their phones are protected in case they want to report the cases.
Also, procedures to take to make sure that relevant authorities are notified as soon as possible. Below are some suggestions that I think will be of assistance when one come across content that can be categorised as child pornography.
-Do not distribute the content to anyone. It is a crime to share such material even if your intentions are deemed good.
– Contact law enforcement authorities immediately.
– People who come across child pornography content should notify relevant authorities like the SAPS, child protection organisations or social workers.
Therefore, I call for an amendment on the child protection policies/acts. I advocate for awareness campaigns on such policies not just well manicured policies lying in offices.
We need action on the ground starting from the grass roots level. The minors should be made aware of child pornography and consequences that follows when one records pornographic material.
The child rights African charter condemns child abuse at all levels. A loop hole is found in the ACRC and it is a matter of concern. It lacks details and specifications on child pornography.
It rests everything to the state parties. In doing so it seems as if child rights are peculiar to different countries. For progress sake it can develop a framework that will be set as benchmark that can be adopted by state parties.
Jijita is Child rights activist, advocate and researcher.
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