Child pornography: the ugly side of social media

By Abigirl Tembo, Health Editor

CHILD rights experts have expressed dismay at the amount of child pornographic material in circulation on social media, saying it is a violation of child rights which has long term effects on children.

Sexual abuse is one of the most heinous crimes that a child can be subjected to.

Child pornography, which is the documentation of such an act, is an extension of this abuse that causes permanent damage to the victim.

Such is the current scenario as videos of a two-year-old child being molested by her step father is being shared on social media for views, likes and clicks, in a development that has far reaching consequences on the innocent child.

“It is important that the nation knows that circulating any images or video of a young person being abused is an offense and not only is it a criminal offence it is also a violation of that child’s rights, they have rights to protection because what we don’t realise is we are circulating in good faith we want to help the young person to get help but what is then happening in the future is that you are further traumatising the young person.

“I think we are all aware that with the digital footprint it doesn’t go anywhere, for 100 years for 200 years the mark will still be there so when the young person grows up and they are able to access such information they are further re-traumatised, we are letting them relive that experience so it’s important for the communities and Zimbabwe at large to know that by circulating such images you will be further traumatising the child,” said Ms Stella Motsi, chairperson of the Child Protection Council.

She added, “Socialites, we appreciate the work that you do, but you need to do it in a very formal and professional and legal manner and not just circulate because we are further traumatising or exposing the child. It is very easy to say no I was getting help for the child, but if it was your child would you want that video to even be circulating? I guess not, because you don’t want to further traumatise and expose your child.”

Even in cases where the perpetrator is caught, the victim identified and the criminal case successfully prosecuted, the harm to the child involved continues as the material remains accessible on the internet.

“This is very sad. People should stop forwarding such images and videos. If it was your child or niece would you click the forward button?” asked a concerned citizen.

“These socialites what they want are just likes and clicks and to get famous and don’t really care about what happens to the child afterwards, the stigma and the name calling. This should stop,” said a parent.

“If you abuse a child you should be arrested. If you record the abuse you should be arrested and if you circulate those images you should be arrested also because you are all the same. You have just destroyed a child’s present and future,” said a concerned member of the community.

But then again, whose duty is it to protect the innocent children from this dark side of social media?

“We are all aware of the Shona saying that says a child belongs to everyone and this is why the government has structures in place from the community right up to the top so in that spirit we calling upon each and every one of us to bring such issues to our attention,” said Ms Motsi.

Saving or destroying a child’s future is just a click away thus the onus is on us as society to ensure that we preserve their innocence.