CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER
I was reminded of a beautiful reality of being a woman by the official Tweet of the #UNWomenWatch which showcased this year’s theme for internetnational women’s day as “equality for women means progress for all” ( see http://www.un.org/womenwatch/feature/iwd/). But the reality of being woman is not a beautiful experience for all women always. I would tell why I think so:
Very recently I was invited to be a panellist in a workshop on cyber security by Kerala child rights commission. I had a wonderful experience as a contributor. But I learnt more than what I contributed as a resource person and a panellist. Kerala like many other states in India is a beautiful place with lots of natural resources, beautiful water bodies and excellent schools. As an outsider to Kerala culture the first thing that striked me was the dressing of women and the freshness in their look. I noticed that bathing spots like temple tanks, river banks and falls are flocked by local women and children during specific times in the day and men avoid these ‘women only’ places . I was under the impression that social culture in here was very different from northern Indian states, and I started feeling happy about it especially when I get to hear that rape culture is most anticipated in such circumstances in Delhi and nearby places. But when I learnt the reality from other resource persons , I felt more than worried; many children are ‘employed’ by adults to take pictures of bathing women in such public bathing places . Nevertheless, Kerala could be the biggest contributor for Indian adult websites and this may be because of these innocent ‘employees’ or should I say ‘victims’ of the larger porno industry rackets. Kerala is just a model; I did notice many other places in other states where people throng to public bathing places, beaches and even public places like temples armed with smart phones to do their own bits of voyeurism with women’s body. Men may ask the children in their groups to take snaps of bathing women and later these children would be rewarded by delicious snacks to even one more opportunity to take such ‘reckless’ photographs of women. Have you ever thought of the scenes in rural of semi urban or even urban places when women take such snap shots of bathing men or general public where men are heavy in number than women? Such scenes are rare unless the women are not researchers, or journalists or even ‘citizen journalists’ who amaturely contribute news and clippings to the news media. Women cannot be ‘gazers’ in public places to men, leave the bathing men. If a woman dares to ape her male counterpart in this aspect just to show her boldness and try to make men realise the same feeling of embarrassment as women feel by her body language, she may either be subjected to counter sexual harassment by men present there or may be ridiculed by society for being ‘besharam’ ,a girl without any sense of morality. The society teaches inequality in this aspect from the very beginning of childhood. Resultant, girls grow up to be women constantly being victims of visual rape or sexual harassment right from their childhood days not only by men, but also by young children.
What would be the treatment of these girls and women when they go online with their bathing beauty sex bomb avatar? In most cases these victims of voyeurism may never get to know their victimhood status especially when they belong to the below the poverty line range where they can’t afford to have independent internet connection either through their mobile phones or through the cyber cafes or through home broadband connections. However, they may become ‘items’ for discussion in the local business junctions, pubs and clubs if their images are made available for public viewing. No one will actually come over to compensate them or fight for them because they may never be made aware of these as well. However, if the law agencies do come to know about the issue, hopefully actions can be taken against the people involved in the racket right from the kingpin to the children who may have been ‘employed’ by such people to do the ground work. Most likely prescribed penalty could be either a jail term for three years or a fine or both as has been described in S.66E of the Information Technology Act, 2008, or a jail term for three years or five years minimum with a fine, as prescribed by Ss. 67 or 67A of the Information Technology Act or S.354C of the Indian Penal code depending upon the nature of the offence as understood from the images and its effects. The issue of involvement of children may further attract questions of right to protection of children from such crimes as well as duty of the State to prevent the children from getting involved in such acts through various legal provisions.
Who remains unprotected without getting any notion of ‘equality’? Nonetheless these innocent poor women who may be again subjected to such acts by a fresh group of youngsters mentored by some other porn industry rackets. I feel time has come to teach not only the children, but also their parents about the possible misuse of gadgets by their children and to stop providing ‘soft corner’ for children’s unreasonable demands for smart phones even if it is a gift for getting excellent marks in the exams.
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