Need for a model prohibitory provision for preventing and punishing Cybercrimes targeting women

CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER

The festive seasons not only bring joy and happiness, but also brings tinges of tensions, disappointment, frustrations and unnecessary worries especially for women and girls. This is because of the negative use of digital and information technology; women and girls may be photographed inappropriately, touched inappropriately and may be photographed in such conditions, they may be stalked, their data may be unauthorisedly accessed and misused and over all, they may also be targeted for revenge porn. It may generally happen even during non-festive seasons too. But during the festive seasons such off-line and online harassment targeting women may increase more. In my previous research I have observed that this may happen due to two main reasons : lack of strict central laws relating to public place photography and engagement of the police force in crowd management. It may necessarily become almost impossible to protect every woman and girl in the crowds from the perpetrators who may be digitally empowered to violet the privacy.  The second reason plays a major role in motivating the perpetrators to take the harassment of women and girls online so that victims may not be able to understand the impact of victimisation immediately; simultaneously the perpetrators may not only satisfy their sadistic ego by harassing women and girls online, but may also gain unethically by  supplying the voyeur pictures and clippings to adult sites and even to YouTube. By the time  the victims understand and feel the impact of victimisation, their reputation may have been badly damaged due to viral spreading of the images.  
A year back the ministry of women and children rolled out project for portal to complain about online harassment. But this could neither reduce the alarming growth of online victimisation of women. The reason could be ill drafted laws and poor execution of the existing laws. These ill drafted laws may include S.66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000(amended in 2008) which prescribed punishment for offensive, annoying etc speech, which was later scrapped off in the case of Shreya Singhal vs Union of india & others (however, the Information Technology Act has not been amended so far to either amend or delete this provision from the present version of the Provision); Ss. 354 C and D of the Indian Penal Code which speaks about voyeurism and cyber stalking, S.509 of the Indian Penal Code which speaks about word gesture etc about harming the modesty of women etc.[1]I have also created a model law for penalising revenge porn and had submitted the same to the ministry of women and child affairs.[2]However, no step has been taken on this so far even though revenge porn does exist in the Indian cyber space context as well.
It needs to be noted that the internet has provided a broader platform for expressing views and opinions and women are using it share their opinion on various issues including sexual harassment that may have been meted out to them through Me too movement. But this would definitely have another side of the coin. Many women may prefer to bring up the issue of sexual harassment on public platforms through social media; but the accused persons may neither leave these victims on the cyber space. They may try to counter attack them through trolls, bullies and hired-hackers who may try to vandalise the victims reputations online by infringing the digital privacy of the Me Too fighters. This in other ways may also affect the documentary evidences that the victim/s may have saved in their electronic devices for further court proceedings.
At this juncture It is time that  the existing law must be amended to include provisions for offensive communication and revenge porn. On behalf of Centre for Cyber Victim Counselling a  draft model Law  is proposed as below:
Model law for prohibiting Cybercrime against women
Chapter 1 : preliminary
S.1 Extent and purpose:
It extends to the whole of India.
It has been seen that even though Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 has introduced several new provisions for the safety of women, but still there exists lacuna. Further, the Information technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008) also failed to prevent crimes against women which include cyber bullying, trolling and revenge porn.
In view of the above, this model law is proposed to bring amendment to (a) the present provisions especially in the Indian penal Code (specifically in Ss. 354 C & D) and insert new provision for prohibiting and punishing revenge porn, (b) amend and introduce new version of S.66A to create preventive law to prevent offensive communication including bullying, trolling, online harassment etc against women and individuals in general, (c) to introduce special provision in the Information technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008) to provide confidentiality to the victims.
Chapter 2 : Proposed amendments
S.2 Insertion of a new provision on Revenge porn:[3]
The model Revenge porn prohibitory provision :(This can be included in Chapter XVI of the Indian Penal Code as S.354E, which may be inserted after S.354D (stalking)).
1.    Anyone, who in order to satisfy his anger and frustration for a broken relationship, takes revenge  through publishing, transmitting, conveying, publicizing false and sexually provocative portrayal of his/her victim, by misusing the information that he may have known naturally and that he may have stored in his personal computer, or that which may have been conveyed to his electronic device by the victim herself, or may have been stored in the device with the consent of the victim herself; and which may have been done to publicly defame the victim essentially, commits the offence of revenge porn.
2.    Whoever commits the offence of revenge porn, shall be punished in the first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year, but which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine of not less than 1 lakh rupees and pay reasonable compensation to the victim for damaging his/her reputation in real life and online. If he be punished on a second or subsequent conviction, he shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than three years, but which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine of not less than 5 lakh Rupees and reasonable compensation to the victim.
 Provided that the perpetrator must also be liable to remove the offensive image either original or morphed, irrespective of the fact whether the image was conveyed to him by the victim herself or not, from his own electronic device/s and from the websites and social media profiles where he may have uploaded the same for the purpose of taking revenge.
Provided further, that the investigating officer shall immediately after coming to know of the offence of revenge porn committed by the perpetrator as reported by the victim or anyone on behalf of the victim, contact the concerned website to remove such contents including any text accompanying the image/s which may falsely portray the victim.
Provided further that if the website concerned fails to cooperate with the police on being alerted by the investigating police officer and also if the website concerned fails to remove the content within 36 hours  after being alerted by the victim herself, the said website would not be exempted from third party liability as has been explained under S.79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008) and would be liable to pay compensation to the victim for an amount not less than Rs. 5 lakhs and also fine.
Explanation:
In Subsection 1, the words “publishing, transmitting, conveying, publicizing false and  sexually provocative portrayal of his/her victim” shall include  publishing, transmitting, conveying  any image of woman whether nude, semi-nude or normal to anyone individual and/or to any website including social media, with an intention to take revenge on that said woman.
(Rationale behind proposing a new law: Why S.354C IPC would not be able to regulate revenge porn:
1.    S.354C IPC speaks about voyeurism which is inclusive of “private acts” whereby victim’s private body parts may be shown. It does not mention anything about publishing/conveying/morphing etc of pictures of women for taking revenge. The ultimate motive, i.e., taking revenge is absent here.
2. S.354C does not speak about morphed pictures published/conveyed/transferred etc for gratifying revenge. In cases of revenge porn, majority of the offensive images may be morphed. This has neither been covered under S.66E of the Information Technology Act.
3.    Creation of revenge porn may be done with normal, innocent, un-morphed pictures as well. In such case, we need to look into the accompanying text that describes the image. For example, a normal picture of the woman victim may be published with a text describing her as “horny”, “Prostitute”, “my sexy wife during honeymoon”(when in reality, the woman is not married to the perpetrator, or even if married, did not allow publication of such normal photo with such text ).
4.    Revenge porn differs from non-consensual pornography as well. Non-consensual pornography is a larger term which may include revenge porn, voyeurism or even sexual slavery including forcing the woman to be captured naked for some unethical gain. Hence, revenge porn needs a separate definition.)
S.3.  Amendment to the definition of voyeurism under S.354C of the Indian Penal Code (punishment for voyeurism) : In the place of “Any man”, it should  Any one and the amended provision should be  read as follows:
Any one who watches, or captures the image of a woman engaging in a private act in circumstances where she would usually have the expectation of not being observed either by the perpetrator or by any other person at the behest of the perpetrator or disseminates such image shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year, but which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine, and be punished on a second or subsequent conviction, with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than three years, but which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Explanations:   For the purpose of this section, “private act” includes an act of watching carried out in a place which, in the circumstances, would reasonably be expected to provide privacy and where the victim’s genitals, posterior or breasts are exposed or covered only in underwear; or the victim is using a lavatory; or the victim is doing a sexual act that is not of a kind ordinarily done in public.
  
Where the victim consents to the capture of the images or any act, but not to their dissemination to third persons and where such image or act is disseminated, such dissemination shall be considered an offence under this section.
S.4. Amendment to S.354D of the Indian Penal Code (punishment for stalking including cyber stalking): In the place of Any man, it should be anyone. The amended version should be read as follows:
1) Anyonewho—
   follows a woman and contacts, or attempts to contact such woman to foster personal interaction repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by such woman; or
   monitors the use by a woman of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication,commits the offence of stalking;
 Provided that such conduct shall not amount to stalking if the man who pursued it proves that—
it was pursued for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime and the man accused of stalking had been entrusted with the responsibility of prevention and detection of crime by the State; or
  
it was pursued under any law or to comply with any condition or requirement imposed by any person under any law; or
  
in the particular circumstances such conduct was reasonable and justified.
 (2) Whoever commits the offence of stalking shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine; and be punished on a second or subsequent conviction, with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, and shall also be liable to fine.
(Rationale behind broadening the concept of perpetrator for Ss.354 C&D: It has been seen that women may also commit voyeurism and cyber stalking for victimising fellow women.  This amendment may help reduce such sorts of victimisation.)
S.5. Insertion of new provision prohibiting photography of individuals in general without the consent of the individuals concerned (this may be inserted after S.268 of the Indian penal Code as S.268A)
1. Anyone who uses his camera devices in any public place to capture the images of anyone including men, women, children, people belonging to LGBT groups, with a motive to either sexual gratification of the self, or sexual gratification of others, or uses these images for unethical gain, or for ridiculing or causing hatred,  defamation , damage to the reputation of the said persons by way creating, circulating, spreading etc of such images through electronic medium  without the consent of  such men, women, children  or member of LGBT group when the said men, women, children, or member of LGBT group are  not expected to give consent and/or not expected to be alert for not allowing such photography,  and also publishes, transmits, circulates the same through electronic medium shall be punished with an imprisonment  of either description for a term which shall not be less than six months r, but which may extend to one year , and shall also be liable to fine of not less than 20 thousand  rupees and pay reasonable compensation to the victim for damaging his/her reputation in real life and online. If he be punished on a second or subsequent conviction, he shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one  year, but which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine of not less than 50 thousand Rupees and reasonable compensation to the victim.
 Provided that the perpetrator must also be liable to remove the non-consensual offensive image either original or morphed, from his own electronic device/s and from the websites and social media profiles where he may have uploaded the same for the purpose mentioned above.
Provided further, that the investigating officer shall immediately after coming to know of the offence mentioned above committed by the perpetrator as reported by the victim or anyone on behalf of the victim, contact the concerned website to remove such contents including any text accompanying the image/s which may falsely portray the victim.
Provided further that if the website concerned fails to cooperate with the police on being alerted by the investigating police officer and also if the website concerned fails to remove the content within 36 hours  after being alerted by the victim herself, the said website would not be exempted from third party liability as has been explained under S.79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008) and would be liable to pay compensation to the victim for an amount not less than Rs. 5 lakhs and also fine.
Explanation:
In Subsection 1, the words “capture images” shall also include  capturing images of accident victims and doing so without offering any help to the victim, any other heinous, serious or petty crimes and doing so without reporting the matter to the police and offering help to the victim, capturing images of  rape or sexual molestation or sexual assault of any women or children, taking self portraits or selfies in the above situations.
Explanation 2: The act of capturing the images of men, women, children and members of the LGBT groups may not be considered as an offence if the same is done for academic and research purposes, provided the person/s capturing such images has prior consent of proper authorities, or for medical research purposes or for the purpose of creating documentary evidences which must be provided to the criminal justice machinery including the courts for further legal actions to punish the wrong doers.
S.6. Amendment to Information Technology Act, 2000(amended in 2008):
Punishment for offensive speech (this can be inserted after S.66 (offences related to the computer) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008). This may also be considered as the amended version of S.66A (punishment for annoying etc speech), which was scrapped off by the Supreme court in Shreya Singhal’s case)
1.      Anyone who sends, posts produces, publishes, creates, circulates or sponsors to be circulates  any offensive speech including any text or cartoon or caricature or image accompanied with text to any woman by way of electronic, digital and information communication, which may damage her reputation, damage the reputation of her family and  children create threat to her, her family and children, damage her reputation to an extent that may affect her job or may affect her reputation in the prospective job, shall be punished with an imprisonment for in the first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year, but which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine of not less than 1 lakh rupees and pay reasonable compensation to the victim for damaging his/her reputation in real life and online. If he be punished on a second or subsequent conviction, he shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than three years, but which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine of not less than 5 lakh Rupees and reasonable compensation to the victim.
 Provided that the perpetrator must also be liable to remove the offensive speech from his own electronic device/s and from the websites and social media profiles where he may have published etc the said speech targeting the woman.
Provided further, that the investigating officer shall immediately after coming to know of the offence of posting, publishing etc of the offensive speech committed by the perpetrator as reported by the victim or anyone on behalf of the victim, contact the concerned website to remove such contents including any text accompanying the image/s which may falsely portray the victim and damage her reputation.
Provided further that if the website concerned fails to cooperate with the police on being alerted by the investigating police officer and also if the website concerned fails to remove the content within 36 hours  after being alerted by the victim herself, the said website would not be exempted from third party liability as has been explained under S.79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008) and would be liable to pay compensation to the victim for an amount not less than Rs. 5 lakhs and also fine.
Explanation:
For the purpose of this section, offensive speech targeting women shall include the followings:
1.      Any speech which lowers the moral character of the woman concerned within the meaning of Article 19(2) of the constitution of India.
2.    Any speech which defames the woman concerned in the society as a whole within the meaning of Article 19(2) of the constitution of India as well as Ss.499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code and Indecent representation of women Prohibition Act.
3.    Any speech which includes Cyber bullying. Cyber bullying  may mean attacking anyone with harsh or rude  words in the cyber space, including publicly available web platforms, social media, private and public  chat rooms, emails, blogs etc, and such harsh or rude words are particularly made to ridicule one’s body shape, gender, gender orientation, physical or mental incapability, race, colour, opinion, educational background, language  etc.
4.    Any speech which includes Cyber trolling. Cyber trolling is  an extreme usage of freedom of speech which is exercised to disrupt the community discussions in social networking sites and which is done to deliberately insult ideologies such as feminism, secularism etc; of the topic starter or the supporters of the topic starter.
5.     Any speech which contains Cyber hate propaganda. Cyber hate propaganda may mean offensive communication between the sender and multiple recipients with intent to spread hatred against a particular individual for her opinion, race, gender etc.
It is expected that if this model Act is considered by the government, the growing rate of cyber crimes against women may be brought down.
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), ” Need for a model prohibitory provision for preventing and punishing Cybercrimes targeting women”  22ndOctober 2018 , published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com


[1] My observations on these laws can be found in my book. (Cyber Crimes against Women in India. New Delhi: SAGE Publishing. ISBN: 978-9385985775, https://in.sagepub.com/en-in/sas/cyber-crimes-against-women-in-india/book253900  (co-authored with Professor K.Jaishankar.
[2]See the model law @Halder.D(2017) Criminalizing Revenge Porn From The Privacy Aspects: The Model Revenge Porn Prohibitory Provision. Available @
[3]This was published in supra@2

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