Cyber Crimes against Children see 32% Rise in a Year: NCRB Data Reveals

Cybercrimes committed against children include cyber pornography and hosting or publishing obscene sexual materials depicting children, cyber stalking or bullying and other allied crimes – finds CRY’s analysis of NCRB 2022 report.

The most glaring area of concern with child safety and protection is the fact that children are gradually becoming more vulnerable to cybercrimes and allied threats to online security of the younger generations, as the NCRB Report 2022 reveals. Going by the numbers of the recently published report, in 2022, the total number of cases where children have been victims of cybercrimes stands at 1823, posting a 32 percent increase upon the previous year’s data which stood at 1376.

The nature of cybercrimes committed against children included Cyber Pornography/ Hosting or Publishing Obscene Sexual Materials depicting children (1171 cases), Cyber Stalking/ Bullying (158 cases), and other Cybercrimes against children (416 cases), what worries the most is that children are no longer safe from criminals on the prowl around online spaces.

According to Puja Marwaha, the CEO at CRY – Child Rights and You, “The fear that the COVID pandemic may have left children far more exposed to various online education and other entertainment platforms – which in effect tended to increase risks for children manifested at multiple levels – has been vindicated by the current NCRB data. While keeping children away from the online platforms is certainly not an option, we must have more stringent mechanisms to track down the offenders and sanitize the space for the younger generations”.

Overall, crime against children witnessed a remarkable increase of 8.73 percent with the total number of crimes committed against them standing at 1,62,449; while in the previous year, the number stood at 1,49,404 – an in-depth analysis by CRY points out.

The analysis further reveals that, in 2022, over 445 crimes were committed against children each day in the country, translating to more than 18 crimes taking place every hour, on average. The rate of cognizable crimes (The ‘rate of crime’ is population adjusted – it gives the number of crimes per every one lakh population of children) against children increased to 36.6 in 2022 from 33.6 in 2021.

Further analysis of the decadal trend points to a worrying upward trajectory where crimes against children in India increased steeply by 179 percent in the decade 2013-2022. During the same period, the number of overall crimes in India decreased by 12.3 percent.

Attributing the increase of registered cases to the rise in reporting across several states, Ms Marwaha, said, “While it’s heartening to see that public awareness is growing thereby contributing to higher filing of FIRs, we should also keep in mind that in our country many cases often go unrecorded, especially in the remote areas. Hence the actual scale of crimes committed against children may be higher than what the data reflect. It proves that, despite a series of measures having been taken at various levels of the administration, our children are far from a safe and protected childhood.

The top major crime heads that witnessed the most number of cases in 2022 included Kidnapping and Abduction of Children (Sec. 363, 363A, 364, 364A, 365, 366, 366A, 367, 368 & 369 IPC), and Crimes under POCSO r/w Sec.376,354, 509 IPC. While 74,284 cases were registered under Kidnapping and Abduction, and 63,414 crimes were recorded under POCSO – together, these two crime heads contribute to more than 85 percent of total crimes committed against children.

A gender-wise analysis suggests that in 98.92 percent of cases related to sexual offenses, the victims were girls. Adding to the woe, in 96.8 percent of the cases registered under POCSO Act (Sec 4 and 6), the offenders either came from familiar backgrounds or were known to the victims.

State-wise concentration of crimes against children suggests that Maharashtra (12.8 percent), Madhya Pradesh (12.6 percent), Uttar Pradesh (11.5 percent), Rajasthan (5.8 percent) and West Bengal (5.5 percent) are on top of the table – together accounting for close to half of the total crimes (48.2 percent). However, going by the rate of crimes metric, Delhi stands at the top (134.9) followed by Madhya Pradesh (71), Maharashtra (57.5), Odisha (57.2), and Karnataka (41.3).

Urgent measures are needed to strengthen India’s child protection systems; and while on the one hand, it requires more resources at both systemic and financial levels and is not attainable without adequate budget allocations for child safety; on the other, it also looks up to proactive participation of people at large at the community level.