A new era with the Criminal Law Ordinance Bill, 2013? Can women really claim to be safe?

CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER

Since the news of cabinet nod for the criminal law amendment ordinance Bill, 2013 has been aired by media channels this afternoon, so many of us women have started feeling “secured”. We can now expect to have a formal law which not only addresses stringent punishment for rape, but also finally recognised several crimes like stalking, voyeurism, acid attack etc. The list does not end here; as I mentioned in my invited presentation in the national women’s day seminar at Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Youth Development on 8thMarch, this law would also recognise an ancient crime against women, namely ‘publicly disrobing a woman’. I wonder why this took such a long time to be recognised as a serious crime when the first “reported” victim was none other than Draupadi, the Pandava queen in the mythological epic the Mahabharat. Late but still, we got the law, which in future can expect more research. Right now, many news channels are running live shows on debates over the consent-age for sex. The new law would lower the age of consent for sex to 16. While some are unhappy, some are strongly advising for starting sex-education in schools.
          Analytically, the issues that are addressed in the criminal law ordinance Bill, 2013 are all interwoven. Rape, stalking, acid-attack, disrobing, voyeurism, sexual assault are some of the main issues which come in the first category of crimes that can be done to women other than regular crimes that can be covered under the category of domestic violence. What interests me is, the first category of crimes may directly get connected with a larger ambit of crime, namely cyber crime against women. In my research, as well as in my experience as a counsellor for cyber crime victims I have time and again realised this.  In my invited lecture, I had put a question as to whether this Verma committee report generated criminal law ordinance bill would be a “false promise or a true empowerment of women”? The reasons for my assumption are many folded; a new law can not necessarily stop crimes all together immediately. Given with this, the attitude of the society towards women will neither change within the minute the Bill gets green signal from the cabinet. What ails me more is the lowering of the age of the consent for sex. Provision on voyeurism carries a strong   prohibitory message against any wrong of such nature even if the girl had consented for sex or capturing images of private parts. But did anyone think of women and girls from semi –urban and rural Indian societies? How many schools and colleges run sex education in these places? How many parents would be interested to let their children learn the basics of sexual behaviours from trained counsellors?  As some of the activists were making their points, I support their view on the ground that this might in the other way encourage child marriages. This might also increase the contribution rate to child –pornography industry. Numerous interviews from college students aired by the news channels established one fact: underage individuals including matured teens, young teens and young adult boys and girls do visit porn-sites to satisfy their inquisitiveness to know more about the “forbidden” words ‘SEX’. Undoubtedly, this whole process may include several cases of breach of privacy for women including stalking, voyeurism, disrobing etc, which may perpetually remain out of the boundary of  the existing  as well new laws due to the ‘now on-now off’ nature of the internet technology.
Coming to the basic realities, I wonder how many police officers, lawyers and judges would go ahead with victim’s plea for booking the offences under stalking, voyeurism etc, when many police stations in non-metro cities are not even aware what these terms may mean and (even if they know) how to deal with it. Not to be forgotten that Indian Penal Code is not an independent provision when it comes to these crimes. It needs strong supports of equally focussed Criminal procedure code, Indian Evidence Act and off course the Information Technology Act. Nonetheless, some provisions of these legal codes are sceptical enough to provide good justice to women victims of cyber crimes. I enjoyed some of the interviews of ordinary civil society members, who forced that the education must begin at home for boys and girls. Time and again the need for such awareness creation is felt by people at large. I mentioned in the last segment of my presentation in the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Youth Development that such sorts of awareness camps must be made necessary for  all sects of the society right from the grass roots level civil society member till the  civil servants including the police, the members of judiciary including lawyers. It is only then that people can exchange their problems and find general solutions. Let us hope ……let us work together.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2013),“A new era with the Criminal Law Ordinance Bill, 2013? Can women really claim to be safe?”15th March, 2013, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/

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