Impact Of Online Ads Containing Sexual Imageries On Children And Its Legal Implications India
Written by: Jayanta Boruah, Research Scholar, North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong
At the present phase of digitalization, it is very hard to monitor children’s activities while using the internet. In such situations, the advertisements that contain sexual imageries might have a negative influence on the minds of the children getting exposed to such adds. Therefore, it becomes necessary for the legal framework in India to regulate such commercial advertisements since access to internet by children is increasing at a huge rate in India. Tts Article will therefore focus on certain key areas in the relation between laws and online advertisements taking in consideration their influences on children in India.
While utilizing an internationally recognized educational app, I found few advertisements of some other apps that were based on sexual imagery. At that moment I skipped those adds but later realized that what if that app was used by any child, since it was for educational purposes and got exposed to such adds, will that child also skip those adds like I did and what if he/she doesn’t do so? This concern led me to do a further study in this matter and I came to realize that if underaged persons are exposed to sexual imagery then such persons might undergo psychological imbalances that might further increase the rate of violence against women in a given society. Moreover, in India it is even illegal to expose children to such sexual imageries. Publishing and distributing indecent contents containing sexually explicit materials is also an offence under the Indian laws. In such a situation, BBC published a report which stated that children are getting over exposed to advertisements containing sexual imageries and it is becoming very difficult for the parents to control it. The report further stated that such advertisements establishes a link between sexualized imageries and violence towards females. It was even alleged in the report that such advertisements create a psychological impact on the children where boys tend to become like ‘macho’ and girls tend to become more sexually available and permissive. This Article will thus briefly analyze the impacts of such advertisements on children along with its legal implications.
IMPACT OF EXPOSURE TO SEXUAL IMAGERIES UPON CHILDREN
In the words of Linda Papadopoulos, “both the images that we consume and the way we consume them are lending credence to the idea that women are there to be used and men are there to use them”. These words are enough to indicate the extent of devastating consequences that are brought by such sexual imageries in advertisements. While it is also to be acknowledged that only advertisements are not responsible rather there are many platforms in social media that exposes such kind of sexual appeals. But advertisements are easily accessible to the children since they most often skip monitoring. For example, on opening few commonly used Browsers, on the Home page itself we can find such images that contains sexual appeal and it is obvious that due to the nature of the present education system, children are more likely to open such Browsers for continuing their regular studies. Sexual contents in advertisements is also alleged for raising sexual bullying where girls felt compelled to post their pictures either naked or topless in social media.
Further, in this digital world, it is becoming highly impossible to restrict a child from getting exposed to such contents. As a result, getting exposed to sexual content might increase their desire for having sexual intercourse at a very early age when they might not even be able to understand the safe measures of having sexual intimacy leading to unprotected sexual affairs. This might lead to severe consequences. In India the situation is even more dangerous since a report stated that 385 million internet users in India are over 12 years while 66 million users are between the age group of 5-11 years who constitutes 15% of total internet users. India is a patriarchal country backed by gender biased convictions for which sexualizing the youth might become a serious threat towards the security of the females or might lead to an increase in the rates of offences like- rape, sexual harassments, acid attacks, etc. and we all know that the rates of such offences are even increasing year after year in India. We cannot even expect children to be selective in deciding what to consume and what to avoid due to their lack of maturity.
LEGAL FRAMEWORK REGULATING SUCH ISSUES
For the purpose of regulating the advertisements in India there are- Press Council of India Act 1978; Cable Television Act of 1955 and 2006. However, these Acts does not expressly deal with the matter of online advertising but do provides for a standard for every kind of advertisements targeted to citizens. The restrictions on advertising under Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act can be taken into considerations, since this Act prohibits advertisements that are harmful for the young generation. However, the definition of ‘harmful publication’ under this Act too seems to have not emphasized on this issue directly but indirectly advertisements published with sexual imageries can be brought under the purview of this Act. Sine it speaks about any kind of publication with or without pictures, that if fell in the hands of young persons is likely to make them commit offences of any kind or violence or cruelty or incidents of repulsive or horrible nature. Further, the Consumers Protection Act provides a Right to the citizens of being truly informed through advertisements about the product concerned. But advertisements with sexual appeal, more or less, publishes a virtual image which if enters into the minds of the children might mislead them in understanding the reality of such contents, for which publication of such advertisements can be treated as a violation of this Right under the Act.
Most importantly the provisions that can make such advertisements in India punishable if exposed to children are Sections 67, 67A & 67 B of IT Act where Publishing or transmitting obscene materials, sexually explicit materials, and materials depicting children in sexually explicit acts, etc. in electronic forms have been made punishable offences respectively.
There are legal provisions in India that prohibits for such kind of advertisements that are likely to expose children to the process of sexualization. But in this globalized world, where different cultures across the globe intermixes at a single platform associable at the finger tips, it becomes very difficult to detect the offenders and to hold them guilty, since online censorship is highly difficult to put into practice. Further, even the law has also not specifically dealt with this aspect till date. There are special regulations for dealing with advertisements relating to tobaccos, cigarettes and all but for dealing with sexual imagery, there is a lack of such special laws. Thus, it becomes necessary for the Advertisement Council of India that was established in 1985 to provide standards of advertisements focusing on this aspect also. Further, the technology industry must come up with new technologies that provide for parental control software in mobile phones or laptops or in any other gadgets that are internet accessible and the law must make it mandatory for the manufacturers of such gagdgets to install such technologies before sell. Moreover, law must also aim for providing free and compulsory sexual education amongst teenagers with special focus on removing virtual ideologies based on gender misconceptions. It is also the responsibility of the parents and guardians to provide some time for their children for monitoring their growth in a gender and sex neutral environment where they could learn the reality of human relationship and could avoid the desires of changing themselves according to the society rather could adopt better ways of adjusting with the contemporary society in their actual existence.
 Sylvine, Laws governing advertisements in India, IPLEADERS (May 13, 2020, 01:17 AM) https://blog.ipleaders.in/laws-governing-advertisement-india/amp/.  Dominic Casciani, Children ‘over-exposed to sexual imagery’, BBC News (May 13, 2020, 01:12 AM) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8537734.stm.  Linda Papadopoulos, Sexualization of Young People Review, (2010) May 13, 2020, 01:35 AM) https://dera.ioe.ac.uk/10738/1/sexualisation-young-people.pdf.  Supra 1.  R.L. Collins, et. al., Sexual Media and Childhood Well-being and Health, (2017) Padiatrics (May 14, 2020, 02:33 AM) https://www.childrenandscreens.com/findings/sexual-content/.  PTI, About 15% of India’s Internet Users Are Aged 5-11 Years, Says IAMAI Report, Bloomberg Quint (May 14, 2020, 01:44 AM) https://www.bloombergquint.com/technology/about-15-of-indias-internet-users-are-aged-5-11-years-says-iamai-report.  Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act 1956, No. 93 of 1956, Acts of Parliament (India,. S. 2(a).  The Consumers Protection Act 1986, No. 68 of 1986, Acts of Parliament (India).  The Information Technology Act 200, No. 21 of 2000, Acts of Parliament (India).