Once shared on the internet, these pictures will remain available forever, contributing to life-long trauma for the child.

What everyone who shared pictures of a child being molested in TN should knowImage for representation
Voices Child sexual abuse Saturday, August 27, 2016 - 13:09

A few days ago, a collage of four pictures was shared widely on social media and messaging platforms like Whatsapp. A message in Tamil that said, “The distress that girl children go through outside a library" in Theni, accompanied the pictures. The images showed a small girl (her face not fully visible) being molested by an old man.

What followed was internet outrage, with even regional channels picking up on it.

The Theni police later arrested a 60-year-old man who works as a coolie in a village in the district.

The arrest came after a complaint was filed by the victim’s mother. A police inspector who got the pictures on his Whatsapp tracked down the mother and she then decided to lodge a complaint. The victim, a Class IV student, was allegedly sexually abused by Chinnasamy when the child was playing at the village library.

Many people forwarded the pictures because they were shocked at the girl’s plight, others thought forwarding them would get her justice. Still many may have got a kick out of forwarding perverse pictures.

“We don’t know who clicked those pictures. It seems a person in the village had died and a few people from Chennai had come to pay condolences - they seem to have taken these pictures. No one informed the police. They went back to Chennai and shared the images on Whatsapp groups, and then it went viral,” says the investigating officer.

The person clicking the pictures may have thought that this would serve as evidence, but they forgot two crucial points.

1. By allowing a crime to happen or continue, one can be charged for abetment under the Pocso Act.

2. The focus needs to be on the victim rather than the perpetrator. Here, instead of clicking pictures of a man assaulting a child with the intention of getting him caught, there should have been an immediate effort made to rescue or help the child.  
Those who shared the pictures should know:

1. Section 67 of The Information Technology Act, 2000 ,clearly says “Whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published or transmitted in the electronic form, any material which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest can be punished under the law”.

2. You may have had good intentions, but sharing a child’s pictures of abuse will only traumatize her further. Given that in India, sexual assault is seen as an “insult” to the girl child’s honour, the pictures going viral is only likely to cause greater grief to the family.

3. Once shared on the internet, these pictures will remain available forever, contributing to life-long trauma for the child.

4. If you are concerned, tell the police, or at least do not contribute to the family’s distress by forwarding it. 

Geetha Narayanan, an independent consultant and researcher, has filed a complaint at the Chief Minister’s cell asking for action against those who leaked these pictures online. She told The News Minute, “Why must pictures of sexual abuse be shared on social media? Sexual abuse is a crime and the concerned authorities should be informed instead of people circulating it online. In such cases, it could hamper the future of the victim,” she said.


(With inputs from Pheba Mathew)

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