Report: Exposure to digital pornography is an emerging issue in the country, according to a National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) report.

Besides physical, sexual, emotional and structural violence, digital pornography is one of the types and prevalence of violence against children in Bhutan.

NCWC launched the report titled Research On Violence Against Children in Bhutan on the International Day of the Girl Child on October 11.

NCWC in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Bhutan carried out a comprehensive multi-phase research to better understand the situation of violence against children in Bhutan.

According to the report, there was an expectation that children were increasingly using mobile devices to share sexual videos and images. More than 20 percent of children reported exposure to pornography.

It was found that children are more likely to have watched sex videos rather than having been pressured into or voluntary making of pornographic material.

Greater access to the online world through mobile phones and tablets and increased ownership of technologies contribute to greater exposure to sexual contents.

About 4.1 percent of girls reported exposure to pornography at school and in public places, while 11.3 percent of boys reported the same.

“The finding that children are increasingly exposed to pornography before their teenage years is not unexpected,” the report states.

Exposure to pornography signals that children and young people have more sexual awareness and are not as naïve as adults tend to believe.

The report also states that it is not clear to what extent children consider their exposure to pornography as violent.

According to the report, with almost universal access to cable television and the Internet, discovering pornography even as a pre-teen may have become a part of normal adolescence in many societies.

The report states that it is important that adults and welfare agencies engage with the report’s findings to learn whether exposure to digital pornography impacts the sexual behaviour that adolescent boys exhibit towards both their female and male peers. It is also important to recognise the potential dangers that children and young people expose themselves to by searching for pornography, especially in a world in which sexual predators are omnipresent.

As new generations become more online savvy and interested to explore the world through the Internet, it is essential to gain more insight and to keep up to date on teenage online practices, says the report.

Developing a strategy for understanding the impact and risk associated with exposure to pornography is recommended to tackle the issue.

Developing a national strategy to counter peer violence and bullying in all settings, engaging men and boys on the issue of violence against children, reinforcing the ban on corporal punishment in educational establishments and institutions and reviewing the legal framework for the care and protection of children, among others were some of the recommendations.

The findings and recommendations of the study will be used to update the National Plan of Action on Child Protection and to inform the development of a National Child Protection Strategy to guide the mainstreaming of child protection into the 12th Plan.

The three-phased study carried out over a period of three years provides an in-depth situation of violence against children and ensuing impact as seen from the eyes of parents, caregivers and children themselves.

Dechen Tshomo