CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DR.DEBARATI HALDER
Using commercial web portals for on-line buying and selling is the new trend that is gripping India fast. For long there were questions of credibility of the on-line classifieds and e-commerce portrayals and many had complained after they were duped by such on-line classifieds. I myself had received and still receive many complaints of fraudulent promises on such web portals, awful customer care responses, delay in completion of the contract or even duping of prospective buyers by ‘vanishing sellers’ once the payment has been made. Typically there are several categories of perpetrators and basically one group of victims; namely the prospective buyers; rather there ‘were’ ! but the power of world wide web proved more than legendary criticism by jean Louis De Lolme about the British parliament which says “Parliament can do everything but make woman a man and a man a woman”. Numerous instances are there where World Wide Web had brought in huge surprises including declaring alive men dead, turning innocent children into porn materials and making brilliant students millionaires. But not to forget, it has also brought in virtual women trafficking; a trend that may not have gained major highlights due to erasing nature of the evidences. In the west, Craigslist was one such site which was being used for victimising women by creating the victim’s fake avatars (Halder Debarati,Examining the Scope of Indecent Representation of Women (Prevention) Act, 1986 in the Light of Cyber Victimization of Women in India (May25, 2013). National Law School Journal,Vol. 11, 2013, pp. 188-218 . Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2270061) as one who solicits for sex; the on-line classified site was being misused by perpetrators who for taking revenge over jilted affair, floated women’s private address, phone numbers and sometimes their very private sexual preferences which would have known only by the perpetrator himself. There had been instances when such advertisement had lead to rape of the victim by strangers who dropped in at the address provided by the perpetrator. Criaglist started monitoring the contribution of such kinds, especially usage of the same as a dating site when some researchers pointed out how the site was becoming a notorious choice for sexual victimisation women.
In India for long, on-line victimisation of women had been restricted to social networking sites like Facebook and some adult dating sites. Usage of commercial web-portals for victimisation of women was not a ‘trend’ until recently when some one used popular on-line classified Olx.com to actually advertise for selling a woman for a paltry sum of Rupees two thousand (see http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-10-30/india/43526620_1_advertisement-police-station-portal). The advertisement was complete with a photograph of the woman and a corresponding name and phone number of the ‘agent’. Interestingly, the ‘agent’ was none other than another victim of identity theft who claimed that his name has been maliciously used to victimise him. The news media contacted the victim of identity theft and later the country manager of the online classified; subsequently the ad was removed. But now, consider the fate of the woman whose photograph was floated as the main subject of virtual women trafficking. May be, the photograph could have been taken from adult sites to victimise the man who had been shown as the agent; may be it is a real picture of a real victim; but the truth is, campaigning for virtual women trafficking for victimisation of women has set in and it has created a huge example for new trends of cyber crimes and on-line victimisation of women. In India human trafficking, including women trafficking is considered illegal and the Indian Penal Code offers various penal provisions to prohibit sale of women ( see pg 6 in Nair (2007), Trafficking women and children for sexual exploitation : a handbook for law enforcement agencies in India , URL: http://www.unodc.org/documents/human-trafficking/India_Training_material/Handbook_for_Law_Enforcement_Agencies_in_India.pdf). Nonetheless, these provisions are proving to be mere written laws especially when the online sites traditionally do not monitor the contributed contents. However, this particular site deserves a special applause since they had withdrawn the offensive advertisement within record time after being notified. But still then, the trend of on-line victimisation of women has taken a new path with this incident and I fear this is going to stay.
Hope my fear is proved baseless very soon.
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