Tag: 2013

Viral contents, safety and privacy of women


After two days of International day for elimination of violence against women  (November,25)and a day after India celebrated Law Day on November 26, I write this blog with a mixed mind of happiness and confused state. The past weeks were noteworthy: a woman bank employee was attacked inside the ATM in Bangalore by a man who is still playing hide and seek when I write this blog and  the sensational Tehelka  journalist’s  sexual harassment case. Both to me are interconnected; all of them relate to the violence against women in different forms. All three incidences became sensational national news within no time due to viral sharing in the social media. The woman bank employee was attacked by man who was hiding inside the ATM counter with a weapon when she was operating the ATM machine. She fell down in a pool of blood. The attacker left the scene by pulling the shutter down. This was viewed by  millions of viewers again and again who watched the CCTV footage that was first aired by the news channels and then shared by almost every third social media user.  I can’t stop appreciating the two school boys who alerted the police men first. They are the internet generation kids, but  they  probably were more concerned about the crime and the victim whose blood was trickling down from the closed ATM kiosk, than wasting time in recording the scene in cell phones (remember the cartoon that is  doing rounds in  the net where people are taking picture/video -graphing  two hands slowly drowning in a water body?)  . Thanks to the school policies in many cities in India which prohibits children from bringing any digital communication devices to the school including the cell phone.  We are getting wonderful citizens for the future indeed. However, no sooner, there were floods of debates in the Facebook as well as in the news channel web links as to whether the CCTV footage should have been aired at all as this is brutal, violent attack and above all it may alert other such ATM attackers as to how to protect their identity when carrying on such operations. On the other hands many shared and showcased the video to spread the news and alert the police wherever and whenever the attacker can be seen.  Ironically i was also asked by some of my friends to see it and share it. I did neither.
        Following closely this, came the Tehelka journalist’s case. A woman journalist of the Tehelka news group complained to her seniors that she was sexually harassed and assaulted by the editor in chief of Tehelka .The news became extremely scandalous, yet sensational due to the reason that only this year India has finally got a bunch of strict laws against sexual harassment of women, including the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and Tehelka had been a news channel which carried many notable sting operations to reveal many closely kept scandalous secrets. Before the victim or her complaint could become a ‘hot item’ for the web, the police considered the legal safeguards for the victim which is freshly embedded in S. 16 of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and warned the general public to not to circulate the details of the victim in any social media. (http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/goa-police-record-statements/article5386247.ece). A very much needed warning indeed. When the Delhi gang rape happened almost a year back, the fury of people led the government to consider stricter punishment for rape. Internet was flooded with pictures of a woman in nebulizer who was described as the victim. no one, not even the police could stop such circulation of false, half known details of the victim especially when the penal laws prohibit releasing the information of the victim of sexual assault cases.
        I consider all women victims with equal concern when it comes to the issue of their privacy. While police has taken a brilliant historical step in prohibiting general public from posting any details of the victim, I feel this wise decision should be used for all cases of victimisation of women. The limitation off course exists as the law which closes the chances of floating the information is limited in its scope. But this was one of the main reasons that I preferred to share the ATM attack video as well. Why should a brutal attack on a woman video be shared by general public at all?  I feel it is extreme disgracing for the victim, even though this could have been considered as the right way to alert the general public about the image of the attacker by some. I ask, why not only the image of the attacker? Because the woman in the ATM attack case was not sexually harassed, no one considered sharing of the video as something which should not have been done. A sheer example of when law of the land stops its words, law of human psychology takes place.  Consider when the ATM attack victim would get to see the circulation, she or her daughter/s or her granddaughters may not feel happy about it. Would you reader feel happy to see the viral pictures of your mother/sister/daughter being attacked and lying in a pool of blood?  You may not !
        If you are the one who has posted the ATM attack video or thinking of sharing any information about the Tehelka journalist. Please do consider. Viral contents can show that you are concerned about the issue, but equally it may endanger the victim’s life, her privacy and safety.
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. (2013), “Viral contents, safety and privacy of women””, 27thDecember,2013, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/

A new era with the Criminal Law Ordinance Bill, 2013? Can women really claim to be safe?


Since the news of cabinet nod for the criminal law amendment ordinance Bill, 2013 has been aired by media channels this afternoon, so many of us women have started feeling “secured”. We can now expect to have a formal law which not only addresses stringent punishment for rape, but also finally recognised several crimes like stalking, voyeurism, acid attack etc. The list does not end here; as I mentioned in my invited presentation in the national women’s day seminar at Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Youth Development on 8thMarch, this law would also recognise an ancient crime against women, namely ‘publicly disrobing a woman’. I wonder why this took such a long time to be recognised as a serious crime when the first “reported” victim was none other than Draupadi, the Pandava queen in the mythological epic the Mahabharat. Late but still, we got the law, which in future can expect more research. Right now, many news channels are running live shows on debates over the consent-age for sex. The new law would lower the age of consent for sex to 16. While some are unhappy, some are strongly advising for starting sex-education in schools.
          Analytically, the issues that are addressed in the criminal law ordinance Bill, 2013 are all interwoven. Rape, stalking, acid-attack, disrobing, voyeurism, sexual assault are some of the main issues which come in the first category of crimes that can be done to women other than regular crimes that can be covered under the category of domestic violence. What interests me is, the first category of crimes may directly get connected with a larger ambit of crime, namely cyber crime against women. In my research, as well as in my experience as a counsellor for cyber crime victims I have time and again realised this.  In my invited lecture, I had put a question as to whether this Verma committee report generated criminal law ordinance bill would be a “false promise or a true empowerment of women”? The reasons for my assumption are many folded; a new law can not necessarily stop crimes all together immediately. Given with this, the attitude of the society towards women will neither change within the minute the Bill gets green signal from the cabinet. What ails me more is the lowering of the age of the consent for sex. Provision on voyeurism carries a strong   prohibitory message against any wrong of such nature even if the girl had consented for sex or capturing images of private parts. But did anyone think of women and girls from semi –urban and rural Indian societies? How many schools and colleges run sex education in these places? How many parents would be interested to let their children learn the basics of sexual behaviours from trained counsellors?  As some of the activists were making their points, I support their view on the ground that this might in the other way encourage child marriages. This might also increase the contribution rate to child –pornography industry. Numerous interviews from college students aired by the news channels established one fact: underage individuals including matured teens, young teens and young adult boys and girls do visit porn-sites to satisfy their inquisitiveness to know more about the “forbidden” words ‘SEX’. Undoubtedly, this whole process may include several cases of breach of privacy for women including stalking, voyeurism, disrobing etc, which may perpetually remain out of the boundary of  the existing  as well new laws due to the ‘now on-now off’ nature of the internet technology.
Coming to the basic realities, I wonder how many police officers, lawyers and judges would go ahead with victim’s plea for booking the offences under stalking, voyeurism etc, when many police stations in non-metro cities are not even aware what these terms may mean and (even if they know) how to deal with it. Not to be forgotten that Indian Penal Code is not an independent provision when it comes to these crimes. It needs strong supports of equally focussed Criminal procedure code, Indian Evidence Act and off course the Information Technology Act. Nonetheless, some provisions of these legal codes are sceptical enough to provide good justice to women victims of cyber crimes. I enjoyed some of the interviews of ordinary civil society members, who forced that the education must begin at home for boys and girls. Time and again the need for such awareness creation is felt by people at large. I mentioned in the last segment of my presentation in the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Youth Development that such sorts of awareness camps must be made necessary for  all sects of the society right from the grass roots level civil society member till the  civil servants including the police, the members of judiciary including lawyers. It is only then that people can exchange their problems and find general solutions. Let us hope ……let us work together.
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. (2013),“A new era with the Criminal Law Ordinance Bill, 2013? Can women really claim to be safe?”15th March, 2013, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/