New Computer and Cyber Crimes law a big win for online child protection in Kenya

Anyone charged with intentionally publishing child pornography electronically risks twenty-five years in jail or a Ksh. 20 million fine or both, as per the new Computer and Cyber Crimes law signed by President Uhuru Kenyatta recently.

A similar punishment will be meted on anyone in possession of child pornography in a computer system or on a computer data storage medium unless the person establishes that the content was intended for a bona fide scientific, research, medical or law enforcement purpose.

According to Kenyan law, a child means a person under the age of eighteen years and child pornography includes data which depicts a child engaged in a sexually explicit conduct. It also means a person who appears to be a child engaged in sexually explicit conduct; or realistic images representing a child engaged in a sexually explicit conduct.

To  publish in this law includes the distribution, transmission, dissemination, circulation, delivery, exhibition, lending for gain, exchanging, bartering, selling or offering for sale, letting on hire or offering to let on hire, offering in any other way, or making available in any way; having in possession or custody, or under control, for the purpose of child pornography.

You will be in violation of the law if you print, photograph, copy or make in any other manner whether of the same or of a different kind or nature for the purpose of child pornography as well.

The law has been received well by different sections of the public.

“It is good to see that the government is serious about protecting our children online. The future of our country is at stake and we have to take such matters seriously,” said, Joyce Kamande.

“It was long overdue and although there are parts that may need some tweaking, we are happy that our children are protected. Parents should also play their part in ensuring that their children do not become victims of this vice online,” said Alice Wamae.

While there are murmurs of complaints about the new Computer and Cyber Crimes Law it is a big win for the Kenyan child. It comes against a backdrop of increased incidents of child pornography in the country.

Just last year a 45-year-old man was charged with showing pornographic videos to minors. Tom Kidemi who was arrested on May 17, was charged with 20 counts of child pornography. Kidemi, a father of six, was accused of showing pornographic movies to young children with the intention of making them engage in sexual acts. He allegedly committed the offence at his home in Railways estate, Nakuru County, in March last year.

Psychological trauma demonstrated by depression, post-traumatic stress disorders, and anxiety disorders is among the serious and long-lasting consequences of childhood sexual exploitation Kenya. This is according to April report, by Terres des Hommes Netherlands, a Dutch child rights organisation, which also included physical harm through systematic sexual abuse and physical violence in the list of dire consequences.

Christened Context analysis and Baseline Survey on Child Exploitation in The Coast Region of Kenya, the report revealed that the repercussions of commercial sexual exploitation for children are serious and long-lasting, often underestimated and misunderstood by parents, guardians and service providers.

Basically, online child sexual exploitation is the broad phenomenon of the use of the Internet to exploit children sexually. It entails adults offering payment or other forms of rewards to view, and in many cases, direct live-stream video footage of children performing sexual acts in front of a webcam or cellphone camera.

According to the survey conducted in February, there are an estimated 750,000 online individuals looking to connect with children at any moment. From the study it was established that the psychological trauma dealt on the children also resulted in relationship difficulties, substance misuse, self-harming, self-destructive and aggressive.

Children who have been sexually exploited also show symptoms of sexualised behaviour, as well as self-destructive behaviour. Further, they seem to develop a distorted view of their own sexuality and sexuality in general, adopting the idea that sexuality and money are intertwined.

“It is widely accepted that children involved in OCSE at a young age are susceptible to abuse later in life. No significant differences were found between victims of the different types of CSEC. This is no surprise as victims often engage in several forms of abuse and exploitation during the same period. All of the problems described require long-term support from sensitive and well-trained professionals to resolve within the family, community and institutional settings,” read part of the report.

The report also revealed that the lack of appropriate services in many settings may exacerbate the difficulties that many children and young people experience. Therefore, even when OCSE comes to an end if at all, the damage to the victim’s mental, physical, emotional and sexual well being is likely to persist into adulthood and remain with them for life.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there are an estimated 750,000 individuals looking to connect with children across the globe for sexual purposes online at any moment. This has also given rise to a specific phenomenon known as Live Online Child Sexual Exploitation.

Sexual exploitation of children comes in three categories;

  • Content, where the child is a receiver of unwelcome or inappropriate messages,
  • Contact, where the child participates in risky communications,
  • Conduct, where the child’s behavior contributes to risky content or contact

The internet provides a space for child sex offenders to exchange information but also to distribute and store child sexual abuse materials (through file sharing, websites, live streaming, cloud technology, etc.)

Platforms and channels such as chat rooms, dating websites, mobile phones with Internet access and peer-to-peer networks allow adults to more easily contact and solicit boys and girls, especially those most vulnerable, such as children not well supervised by guardians or who are particularly defenseless due to feelings of low self-esteem and inadequacy.

A study conducted in Cameroon, The Gambia, Kenya, Togo, and Uganda showed that 54% of children had seen someone of their age in pornographic materials online and about 10% of children had been approached by online contacts to share sexualized images.

The illegal nature and complexities of any form of sexual exploitation of children (and related forms of sexual abuse) means that it is often hidden, disguised and misunderstood, and it remains difficult to research and establish accurate data on the numbers of victims in any context.

Recent studies in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda confirm that CSEC itself is a growing, regional issue. In Kenya, seven percent of females aged 18 to 24 who experienced sexual violence as children had received money for sex.

Sarah Jones, who wrote the Unicef 2006 original report on sexual exploitation of children in Kenya told the Independent UK  in a recent interview that she believes the problems have since intensified further. “We are talking about fifteen to twenty thousand children, and maybe more now, because the population has grown in that time.

“The researchers I work with tell me now that they have a lot of visual evidence of increasing numbers of younger and younger children,” said Sarah

One form of abuse is the live performance by children of sexual acts in front of a webcam or mobile phone camera. This is instantaneously transmitted to online adult viewers. Other forms include the distribution of child pornography and online sexual grooming in which sex predators prepare their victims for eventual exploitation

During TdH-NL’s ‘Sweetie’ study in 2013 on the prevalence of online child sexual exploitation, a total of 20,172 people from 71 countries solicited the researchers, whom the individuals believed to be children, for paid webcam sex performances. A total of 20,172 crimes in a sample of 19 chat rooms likely reflects a small fraction of the crimes occurring daily worldwide, when the FBI estimates that there are 40,000 online chat rooms in which predators lurk. Moreover, live OCSE takes place on social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as adult webcam sites and online dating sites, in addition to chat rooms

UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children Report 2017 shows that children’s vulnerability online is closely linked to how vulnerable they are offline.50 Therefore, children from marginalised groups, as well as children living in poverty, children with disabilities, and children suffering mental health problems are several of the groups that are particularly at risk of OCSE.

A lack of awareness of CSEC and OCSE of parents, communities, and children themselves also contributes to this vulnerability. As much as we have laws in place it is important that parents take a proactive role in ensuring that their children are protected from online predators.

 

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