Recording sexual assaults and rape in mobile phones: How laws fail to control growing sexual assault on women and children

CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER

Picture curtsy: Google


17 men including a 66 year old lift operator allegedly continued to rape an 11 year old girl for months in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The gruesome episode of “aggravated penetrative sexual assault” (as S.5(g) of the Protection of children from Sexual offences Act, 2012 explains, whoever commits gang penetrative sexual assault on child, is said to commit aggravated penetrative sexual assault) came in light in mid July, 2018 when the victim confronted about it first to her sister and then to her parents.[1] This is not the first time that aggravated child sexual assault has been reported from  metro cities which may boast of rigorous campaigns against any sort of sexual violence against women and children by government as well as non government stake holders. This will neither be the last time. Sexual assault against women and children is a social epidemic which happens in every society, in eastern, western, northern and southern hemisphere. Sexual assault on women and children whether aggravated or non aggravated, may be caused due to various psycho-social reasons: while on one hand researchers relate this to pervert mind set of human beings, on the other hand, several examples related this to misogynist mindset, caste oppression, class oppression etc. However, what is more concerning is the growing tendency in the assaulters to record the sexual assaults in their digital devices. In the Chennai case, the assaulters allegedly raped and recorded each another’s act of raping of the child victim. These videos were used to blackmail the child to prevent her from reporting and surrender to more sexual assaults. Often it is asked as why do these rapists, sexual assaulters, physical assaulters and bystanders record the incidents?
        We do have one answer: these videos are made to blackmail and threaten the victim so that she would be surrendering to the assaulter’s demand for more sex.  These videos actually create something which many of us know as non-consensual porn (and not revenge porn necessarily). Noticeably, one of the main aims of the POCSO Act was to curb pornography, especially child porn materials. Ss. 13 and 14 of the POCSO Act therefore spoke about creation of child porn materials using children in any form whether or not such contents may be used for self gratification or for circulation for unethical profit and punishment for the same. On the other hand, if the victim is an adult, one may have to club up Ss.375 (rape), 376D(gang rape), 354 C (voyeurism) of IPC, Ss.66E (violation of Privacy), 67 (punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene materials in the electronic form) , and 67A (punishment for publishing or transmitting sexually explicit materials in the electronic form) to address the issue of creation of gang rape videos. However, as may be seen in several reported cases of sexual assaults, rapes and gang rapes, such existing laws could hardly do anything to control the (pervert) human minds from creating sexual assault videos. While in majority of the cases, such videos are made to blackmail the victim/s, possibilities of other reasons for creation of such videos cannot be ruled out; these reasons could be as follows:
Ø Using the same for self sexual gratification post the physical act of raping, sexually assaulting women and children.
Ø Using the same as erotica for sex-service providers including sex workers from whom these assaulters may ‘buy’ sex.
Ø Showing the same as sexual valour to ‘friends’.
Ø While the above may be used for non-profitable reasons, such videos may also earn good money for the creators/producers if the same is circulated for consummation by consumers of ‘porn videos’ of deep dark net.
Ø In certain cases these videos may also be used to threaten members of socially and economically (extremely) backward communities so that such members do not get indulged in any activities that may have been prohibited by  so called ‘social norms’ which may not have any legal support.
In my recently published monograph titled Child sexual abuse and protection laws in India (published by Sage, (https://uk.sagepub.com/en-gb/eur/child-sexual-abuse-and-protection-laws-in-india/book263196) I have shown how sexual contents available in the cyber media including digital messaging services, social media websites and adult websites may impact on the adolescent minds who may have been brought up in a restricted, orthodox society where sex education itself may be considered as a taboo.
The existing laws here miserably fail to prevent creation of sexual assault videos because the perpetrators may remain anonymous creators/publishers. Interestingly, the Telecom Regulatory authority of India (TRAI) allows an individual to have multiple numbers of SIM cards. Even though the mobile network services are now being activated only on verification of Adhar data, there still remains a policy gap which allows customers to get “free Sims” which may have been pre-owned, swap Sim cards with other holders who may not be using such Sims for legal purposes etc. Along with this, the possibility of spreading the said video/s virally on the net also creates a huge problem to identify the real publisher/creator of the video. The courts may prescribe punishment in such cases by identifying the accused in the videos and on the testimony of the victim and the perpetrator himself that the video was created during the rape /sexual assault. Indeed the role of cyber forensic examination may not be denied here. But that may involve a lengthy process especially when the investigating officer may not be aware about the whole mechanism. But unfortunately no law can practically prevent any assaulter from recording the crime when it is happening. Resultant, more videos/still images may be created and may remain unnoticed as long as the investigating team may explore all possible devices and networks through which the same was/were created, stored and circulated, which is practically impossible.
Facebook has come with face-recognition mechanism to prevent online circulation of sexual assault/rape /revenge porn materials. Other social media websites may also follow the same method. But what we need to know is such videos may not always be circulated through such websites. As I mentioned above, they may be stored in multiple devices or may be made viral by networking services including  digital messaging services. As such, the government stake holder like the TRAI, manufacturers of smart phones, hi-tech digital devices, digital messaging service providers, telecom service providers and other international mobile network service providers must join hands in creating a solid policy to identify mechanisms to prevent misuse of the digital device equipped with camera, the Sim cards and of course the mobile and digital network and communication services.
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. (2018), “ Recording sexual assaults and rape in mobile phones:  How laws fail to control growing sexual assault on women and children”  20thJuly, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com

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