It has become increasingly easy to hide behind one’s computer and act out a personality that may not be real. While this can be harmless, it is important that there are checks to ensure that any potential harm is caught and immediately dealt with to prevent actual crimes. What you do behind your computer or your phone is your business until it poses a threat to another person, especially a child.
Following the DJ Switch Facebook comment situation, we have had many questions on how parents can protect their children’s cyberspace and internet use from potential predators i.e.: pedophiles. Pedophilia is a psychosexual disorder referring to sexual interest in prepubescent children or attempts to engage in sexual acts with prepubescent children. Pedophiles, those who act on their pedophilic desires, oftentimes face criminalization dependent upon the laws in their respective countries. While laws differ throughout the world, Ghana has established unambiguous standards regarding pedophilic actions and their resulting consequences. According to Section 101 of the Criminal Code Act 29, 1960, “A person who naturally or unnaturally carnally knows a child under sixteen years of age, whether with or without the consent, commits a criminal offence and is liable on summary conviction to a term of imprisonment of not less than seven years and not more than twenty-five years”. Essentially, since its independence, Ghanaian laws have reflected the nation’s mission to protect children from the violence and trauma of pedophilia.
What does the law say about pedophilic statements made online?
The existing law in Ghana appears to only punish those who cause physical harm to children, there is little protection regarding the cyberspace of children. As the world continues to become more digitally focused, children are accessing the internet at younger ages and with greater frequency. Ghanaian law has yet to effectively address this advancement in technology and the ways in which the significant increase in internet usage by children leaves them unprotected and vulnerable to pedophiles online. Although there are several pieces of legislation that govern violence against children such as the Criminal Code, 1960 (ACT 29); Children’s Act, 1998 (Act 560); Juvenile Justice Act, 2003 (ACT 653); Electronic Transaction Act, 2008 (Act 772); Data Protection Act, 2012; and Criminal Offences (Amendment) Act, 2012, the Electronic Transition Act is the sole piece of legislation that defines child pornography. These Acts fail to mention child sexual exploitation online.
How can lawmakers help?
Child online protection is feasible in Ghana. To achieve said goal, tangible action must be taken by all stakeholders particularly legislature, law enforcement and industry. Recently, Ghana has taken significant steps towards improving the child online protection efforts. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Ghana and the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service have come together to launch Ghana’s first Child Protection Digital Forensic Laboratory. According to the National Cyber Security Center, the Child Protection Digital Forensic Laboratory seeks to protect children from malicious acts of online abuse, exploitation and violence. It will improve the nature of investigations concerning violations against children online by placing substantial focus on indecent image abuse and extortion. Fundamental stakeholders including the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, UNICEF-Ghana, Ministry of Education and Ghana Education Service collaborated in establishing a child online protection framework that incorporates the newly launched 2020 International Telecommunication Union (ITU) COP Guidelines. These guidelines provide a foundation on which the government may establish concrete practices and laws aimed at thwarting pedophilia online. Although action is being taken to protect children from online pedophilia, Ghanaian law is still lacking in detailing specific legal ramifications if adults are found making pedophilic statements online. Although Ghanaian law contains definitive standards that target the production, possession, and dissemination of child pornography, there is an apparent lack of legislation concerning statements made online.
Moving forward, policymakers must establish laws that specify punishments for all manifestations of child sexual exploitation online. Rather than solely focusing on possession or distribution of child pornography online, the law should expand in scope and include explicit consequences for pedophilic statements made online. Law enforcement cybercrime training should expand to include guidance on what exactly to look for outside of just distribution of child pornography, but also adult communication with children online and various hints of pedophilia within those conversations. While prevention is key, it is necessary for Ghanaian law to incorporate tangible legal protocol that can be taken if prevention fails. In the meantime, we need to remember that the internet never forgets so be careful what you say when you feel uninhibited by your apparent anonymity.
Source: Fair Justice Initiative