Protect your image, not the image destroyer

CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER

Very recently I came across the news of a victim of domestic violence who had been badly physically abused. All attempts to hide the bruises in her face were failed. She was in pain for several days before she could actually gather herself up to join the daily chores of life by her sheer will power. When some of us, her well wishers advised her to report the matter to the police immediately, she retreated. Her sole concern was to protect the family. The case seems similar to many of the domestic violence cases in India as well as in many parts of south Asia where the victim refuses to see the police in fear of losing the faith in her ‘dear ones’. The story is no different for on line abuses. Many women are constantly abused on-line by their own family members, especially doubtful husbands, or someone in whom they once had deep trust, like the ex boyfriends or the ex husbands.  In the digital space, it is extremely easy to spoil the image of the woman. Show her actual picture with dirty tag-line, morph her picture to affix her face on nude bodies, show the pictures of vagina and emboss her name on it, rape her virtually by affixing human hands on the picture of her body parts, especially breasts and lower abdomen and allure others to do the same……. these are some of the examples of abusing the image of a woman which had been discussed by many feminist researchers in their write ups including me in my paper titled “Examining the scope of Indecent Representation of Women (Prevention) Act, 1986 in the light of cyber victimisation of women in India (See Halder Debarati, Examining the Scope of Indecent Representation of Women (Prevention) Act, 1986 in the Light of CyberVictimization of Women in India (May 25, 2013). National Law School Journal,Vol. 11, 2013, pp. 188-218 . Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2270061). But no wonder, majority of the victims feel extremely embarrassed to visit the police. Why? The case of this particular victim of domestic abuse made me realise the truth again; the woman has to live in the society where her relatives including her father, brother or even husband or even her women folk are also staying. They may never like to be tagged as the relative of a victim of on-line abuse, especially when many still believe that on-line abuses such as these mostly occur due to the victim’s own (mis)deeds. Many victims retreat from reporting the crime in fear for loss of job and loss of reputation not for them, but for the family members including the husband in case he is the abuser himself. Some even fear for loss of reputation of the girls in the family in the marriage market. In some cases, the fear is not baseless especially when the police starts tracing the crime and haunts the offices or workplaces of the accused, who may be directly related to the victim or her family. Also, the police have almost set a trend to tag such crimes as either pornographic crimes, or obscene or sexually harassing crimes… all of which may  bring shame to the victim when she is asked about it in the typical questioning pattern set for physical crimes falling under the broad title of sexual crimes. Thanks to the confused laws, less interest of legal drafts men ,the police authorities and the criminal justice machinery in reviewing recent academic researches on the new developments of  international as well as national laws, the young and enthusiastic police  officers (who are rare in number) never get any chance to book the offences as per their own judgements and the crimes continue to add to the categories of traditionally laid down definitions, giving less chances to examine their  true characters. But unlike the physical cases of image destroying of the victim by hitting her and bruising her face, cutting her skin and flesh and permanently damaging her looks, where the accused could be arrested or the victim could be separated from the accused, in cases of on-line crimes of image destruction, the accused may remain hidden or may carry on further damages while the police carry on further investigation. This is extremely frustrating for the victim. Then comes the juggling of the jurisdiction in cases where the accused reside outside the jurisdiction of the local police. While the Criminal Procedure Code clearly empowers the police to carry on the investigation in such cases, red tapism never leaves. A married woman never wants to lose her time in such tangle especially when she has to look after her children, her job and her family. Resultant, either she herself leaves the battle ground with deep frustration which may even lead her to commit suicide, or may take up some illegal ways to remove the image quickly. The actual image destroyer enjoys his misdeeds with no repent.
But time has come when women, especially married women must take time to save their own physical images rather than saving the image destroyer. Let us hope that the courageous women may face the situation more bravely to save themselves.
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), “Protect your image, not the image destroyer, 3rd September,2013, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/

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