CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER
Since March 4, 2015 every one in the social media in India and that of Indian origin were speculating about a new episode that would be unveiled by the BBC through its documentary India’s Daughter. When it was released on March 5th ahead of its original date on March 8, everyone who could watch it, had their own reactions: anger, shame, coupled with a feeling of frustration when the Government of India decided to ban the documentary film in Indian jurisdiction. But note that we are in the internet era and this frustration was not for not being able to see the documentary in the television or the YouTube, but because of the failure of the criminal justice machinery to take action against the people who expressed their (peculiar) opinions about women in Indian society and about the delay in the hearing date in the Supreme Court which would have given the final verdict for the fate of the convicts if it was taken up at an urgent basis. When it came for me to watch it, I actually felt reluctant. I already had gone through hundreds of ‘reviews’ of the film within the day from my Facebook friends, Twitter handles that I follow and the other online portals who were discussing about the issue. It was expected that majority of men would speak about women’s liability in getting sexually victimised, women would speak about better education and awareness to stop sexual harassment and violence against women and the film itself would speak about the callous situation India is going through. What was unexpected was the version of the two lawyers who openly challenged women’s right to be equal human beings in Indian society. I did get to see bits and pieces of the film and like all of other readers I felt frustrated. But my frustration lies in different grounds:
Let us speak from the perspective of ethical issues: defending a client is a noble work and Indian constitution like many other constitutions guarantees the rights of the accused to defend his case through his lawyer. But by way of defence, a lawyer can not make any offending comments to women at large. I understand that many from the legal fraternity would have made complaints to the Bar Council of India against the two lawyers who were interviewed by Udwin for the purpose of this documentary. But interestingly I find it more offensive due to the way of usage of language by the lawyers. None could speak proper English and this made the offensive comments more vulgar and offensive to me: consider one comment “……..The ‘lady’, on the other hand, you can say the ‘girl’ or ‘woman’, are more precious than a gem, than a diamond. It is up to you how you want to keep that diamond in your hand. If you put your diamond on the street, certainly the dog will take it out. You can’t stop it.”( by M.L.Sharma, the lawyer). There are many other such statements from both the lawyers. But what angers me is the understanding of the lawyers: women are certainly not ‘things’ and men are always not ‘dogs’. Again, consider this statement from the same lawyer “….. A woman means, I immediately put the sex in his eyes.” What exactly he wanted to mean is unclear to me, but I do understand that may be he wanted to say men and women cannot be ‘friends’ and other than being blood related, they are always sexual partners. But certainly a woman cannot and should not be treated as a ‘sex-item’ if she is seen with a man who is not her husband, father or brother or son. If the statements were taken in Hindi or in any other regional language, I am sure, the effects would have been more devastating because he would have been blunter like the rapist himself. The other lawyer nonetheless, was more direct in his warning to all women who would choose to roam in the streets with their boyfriends. Did these two lawyers forget the basic principles of equality to all guaranteed in the Indian constitution? Did they know that their remarks can attract provisions like S.509 of the Indian Penal Code which prescribes punishment for derogatory remarks to women? Did they know such comments may even attract provisions meant for criminal intimidation, threatening etc, all of which are basic provisions in the Indian Penal Code? How could they turn into defence lawyers in criminal courts without knowing the basic criminal provisions which safeguard women in India? What sort of legal education they may have got?
Now coming to the rapist’s confessions; at one point of time, I felt that the documentary was actually helpful to the prosecution because the rapist had confessed his crimes publicly. His statements about his own past, his acquaintance with other rapists and their involvements in the rape case leave no doubts about his involvement in this case. This was no ‘accident.’ He is probably a habitual eve teaser and also sexual offender. He along with his gang, raped and brutally hurt the woman to death. He confessed that the victim’s intestine was brought out by the other rapist and they all enjoyed sadistically her situation. He does not have any remorse. He cannot. As some other interviewees pointed out, he is one such man who are brought up with the idea that women are inferior to men and women are to be beaten, sexually assaulted and killed if and when men feel. His lawyers as well as some other men opined that women ‘provocate’ men to rape by their dressing, by their ‘independence’ to roam in the nights. Prosecution can well use these points ( and probably had used already) to prove his criminal mindset and make the case as one ‘rarest of rare.’ But consider why then the government would have blocked the video in India? First of all, as per the Indian criminal laws, a rape victim’s name or identity cannot be published publicly. By now, we all know that her name was Jyoti. But the counter arguments may show that her parents did not object for publicising her name. However, subsequent reports told that her parents neither wanted such show-off of their daughter’s victimisation. Further, as the news media says, the director of the film was not given permission for commercial usage of the film. Have you considered why such restrictions are put in this case? The case is not yet closed. Forget about what image India has as a ‘rape capital.’ But have you noted this almost sidelined ‘headline’ which appeared almost successively following this documentary controversy? If you are not aware, let me take the opportunity: in Nagaland a large group of people broke into the jail to publicly thrash a rape convict who later died of the beatings. The public anger towards the rapist and the lawyers may have reached such height that before they can be prosecuted or charged or the final verdict be given by the court, they may face similar fate. Who stands responsible then? The same media and the human rights activists may then take their own turns to defend the rights of the accused to be tried by the proper channel. Seeing in that perspective, probably the government has taken the right decision to block the video within the Indian jurisdiction which, they are empowered by S.69A of the Information Technology Act which gives power to issue direction for blocking for public access of any information through any computer resource (not to forget, the order is restricted within Indian jurisdiction, even though the Information Technology Act extends its scope for offences or contraventions done beyond the jurisdiction of India).
But now, let us see it from researcher’s point of view: why would the video be suspended when we can get to see the beheading videos? When internet can spread the video from one site to another or share the same in personal homepage, giving every one opportunity to see a banned video? I also support the arguments of some that let the video be open at least for the purpose of research. Let it not be used for commercial purposes (even though as alleged, the director has actually sold the rights to BBC and BBC may not restrict it for non-commercial purposes). The rage regarding this video may have a natural death (let us hope) because (I fear) it cannot influence those who live in societies where such videos are not seen as ‘awareness creating’ videos and rather this would be seen as a fitting reply to women’s boldness. Unfortunately, as the documentary shows, India has more of such societies. Let us hope that the documentary returns only for non-commercial purpose and enlighten those who can take the message to those societies and people who feel women are born to be victimised.
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. (2015), “Why “India’s daughter” and sons cry in anger? Let us face it”, March 6,2015, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/