Consultation on Preventing Online Sexual Harassment of Children: Legal Analysis

Consultation on

Preventing Online Sexual Harassment of Children: Legal Analysis

 With a view of shedding some light on the prevailing situation of online sexual harassment of the children in Bangladesh while drawing the attention of the government on the loopholes in the existing legislations that cover these issues, a Consultation Meeting, titled, “Preventing Online Sexual Harassment of Children: Legal Analysis” was held in the Conference Lounge of National Press Club on 29 October 2018. On behalf of the Child Rights Advocacy Coalition, this event was organized by Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK).

Sheepa Hafiza, Executive Director, ASK, moderated this consultation meeting. Additional Police Commissioner, Joint District Judge of Law Commission, journalists, heads of different educational institutions, representatives of the Government and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) attended this consultation and gave their valuable opinion on the topic.

In her introductory remarks, Sheepa Hafiza mentioned that ASK reviewed the Information and Communication Technology Act, 2006, Pornography Control Act, 2012 and Digital Security Act, 2018, and analyzed it to identify whether there is adequate provisions to address the ongoing trends of online sexual harassment of children.

A presentation on ASK’s findings and recommendations to address the issue was made at the consultation. In the presentation, it was shown that the existing legal framework lacks provisions to address online sexual harassment of children.  To ensure legal safeguards for the victims, ASK has put forwarded some recommendations which are –

  • Inclusion of the definition of ‘online sexual harassment’ in the relevant laws;
  • The definition of a child, as provided in Section 4 of the Children Act, 2013, to be complied with and incorporated in all relevant legislations as it complies with the UNCRC;
  • Definition of cybercrime, according to Articles 2 to 11 of the Budapest Convention, can be explained as follows:
  1. offences against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data and systems;
  2. computer-related offences;
  • content-related offences;
  1. offences related to infringements of copyright and related rights.
  • Definition of Cyber harassment, cyber bullying and cyber stalking can be taken from the UNODC ‘Study facilitating the identification, description and evaluation of the effects of new information technologies on the abuse and exploitation of children.’
  • Any matter involving “Children in Conflict with the Law” and “Children in Contact with the Law” shall be tried in separate juvenile court, as per the Children Act, 2013, instead of trying them in Cyber Tribunal.
  • Privacy of the child victim shall be ensured as per Section 28 of the Children Act.
  • The Section 32 of Children Act, 2013, imposes 360 days’ time limitation for completing trial in juvenile court. The timeframe provided under Section 32 of the Children Act, 2013, shall be reduced according to the “The Beijing Rules”.
  • Section 30, 31, 33, 34, 48, 49, 50, 51 and 54 of the Children Act, 2013 provide a broad range of alternative and educative measures at the pre-arrest, pre-trial, trial and post-trial stages, in order to prevent recidivism and promote the social rehabilitation of child offenders. This can be improved in accordance with the UNODC Guidelines for Action on Children in the Criminal Justice System.
  • Introduction of Cyber Emergency Response Team (CERT) can serve the purpose of a Digital Security Authority. This specialized body should be made quasi-judicial in nature including law enforcement personnel, judicial officers, technical experts, legal practitioners and members of the civil society. This Team can be formed as a “One Stop Service Center” from where the child victim and offender can get all the treatments of juvenile justice system.
  • Specific provisions on providing specialized training to deal with cases where victim (Children in Contact with the Law) or accused (Children in conflict with the law) are concerned, shall be introduced. These training include regular training of the law enforcement agencies, judicial officers, public prosecutors and other concerned government officials. Moreover, a specialized body called ‘Cyber Police” can be introduced to meet this demand.

 Special guest Nazrul Islam, Public Prosecutor, Cyber Tribunal said, ‘Most of the victims do not express or come to take legal assistance as they think it would hamper their personal life and privacy. Hence, the number of online sexual harassment cases is quite few in number.’

Special Guest Mishuk Chakma, Additional Deputy Police Commissioner, Dhaka Metropolitan Police added the statistical information of online harassment. He mentioned that 522 female and 222 male has been harassed last year, in 2017. He suggested the government to separate the judicial procedure of underage perpetrator. He also mentioned that awareness raising programs are also essential to sensitize the mass people on this issue.

Chief Guest Tehsin Iftekher, Joint District Judge, Law Commission Bangladesh told that the government should revise the existing laws to develop separate legal provision for the children. He also added that, mass people should be aware and careful to protect oneself from online sexual harassment.