Tag: cyber crime against women in India

66A on the judgement day

CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER

When you read about S.66A of the Information technology Act, 2000(inserted through amended Act, 2008), the first thing you may note is its broad scope on censoring freedom of speech.  The provision is named as “punishment for sending offensive messages through communication services etc.” I had been an ardent fan of it since it came into effect in 2008 especially because it promised to prohibit harassment, threatening, defamation (call whatever name you wish to) not only against all netizens, but especially against women. in 2008 India did not see Nirbhaya uproar, which finally gave birth to some meaningful laws including anti-stalking (which included cyber stalking) law in the form of S.354D of the Indian Penal Code. India neither had Protection of women from sexual harassment at work place Act, which was ‘born’ in 2013. This law while grouping certain behaviours as ‘penal’, also included conveying of harassing messages through emails or other communication services as offensive behaviour. Most notable of the present laws which penalises sending offensive messages through communication services is obviously the protection of children from sexual offences Act, 2012. Each time I go through these provisions, I find the shadow of S.66A. Consider the first category of offensive message that has been laid down by 66A: “any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character”, send by ‘any person’ send by computer resource or communication device.  While this has attracted most of the controversies and has created shock waves for those who oppose S.66A, the second categorisation is contrarily more focussed. It categorises “any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, or ill will, persistently makes by making use of such computer resource or a communication device” as offensive communication, liable to be penalised.  I call it ‘more focussed’ because it has mentioned certain human emotions which can be triggered due to sending of particular messages and which the sender sends with particular malicious purposes. But still, this categorisation also attracted controversies due to linguistically twisted presentation of the provision. The third and the last categorisation of offensive messages create even more ‘shock’: it includes “any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages”. This is not the repetition of the earlier paragraphs or categorisation, but it is actually for broadening the scope of 66A to mail or messages  and not just only ‘information’.  People who oppose 66A, take up the defence of its almost open-ended scope which can involve anything and everything as offensive speech.  Since the internet has offered anonimity or no initial policing by the service providers  while generating the message, sects of people have started to use internet as a platform to express their opinion. One of the very first oppositions for 66A came up when  Aseem Trivedi , the political cartoonist was nabbed by the crime branch for his politically satirist cartoons depicting anti-corruption movement in early 2012; soon it followed by more oppositions due to the arrest of Palghar girls Shaheen Dhada  and her friend for their post in Facebook on Mumbai shutdown on the occasion of the death of Balasaheb  Thakre.  Needless to say, such arrests were made by the police on the instigation of political people who took full liberty to (mis)use 66A for curtailing the freedom of speech of common individuals. The latest being the arrest of a school boy on the alleged post targeting another political big shot in Uttarpradesh. Unfortunately 66A always found a slippery way in the hands of police who were ‘instigated’ by some people who wished to take the law in their hands in literal meaning. Added with it, s.66A being a provision which proscribes punishment which may extend to three years, also attracts the issues of cognizance and bailability. S.77B says any offence which is punishable with three years imprisonment or more, is a cognizable offence and bailable. It becomes an obvious fact that if and when any one intends to misuse the law, may use the penal objective of the same with fullest meaning so that the ‘accused’ gets a life time lesson. This is exactly what happens each time 66A is used for curtailing free speech especially in cases of opinions regarding political matters or consumer matters.  I say this, because these arrests were also challenged by Markendeya Katzu, who was a former Supreme Court judge.
But 66A also offers a wonderful safeguard against defamation and other harassment if it is read properly. Consider Article 19(2) of the Indian constitution which lays down reasonable restrictions for freedom of speech.  I see 66A in that light shredding those ambiguous categorisations. it is accepted that 66A lacks clear definitions which is extremely important for any restrictive law. But needless to say, we still do not have any provision to regulate online bullying, trolling or even harassment to women by way of insulting posts. S.509 of the Indian Penal Code may fulfil the gap since it punishes any word, gesture etc to insult the modesty of women. But again, when applying 509, many women may face the problem of ‘what is modesty’ types of questions by the police itself. I have known many victims who have been blamed by the police on this very basis.  Police still depends upon related laws to book the offender and many a times the case becomes extremely complicated due to misunderstanding of the issues. 66A may provide a wonderful solace in such cases.  But still, 66A has been used in many cases of harassment of women in the internet and it proved fruitful as well.
When I write this blog, I understand that within a few minutes or a couple of hours, the Supreme court of India may take its landmark decision on 66A on the grounds thus presented by the defenders and supporters of 66A.  I remember seeing a very meaningful observation in Twitter by none other than Pavan Duggal who mentioned that scrapping of 66A would not serve the purpose. I am an ardent fan of 66A and I would continue to support restrictive laws such as this one(off course when it is read and used in positive lights) if at all Supreme Court  shows lenience towards 66A’s opponents.  I really wish that 66A comes back, but not in its old form. It should be re-born with clear language and purposes.  66A may then mother many other laws which may be beneficial to not only women and children, but also groups of persons including racial minority, gender minority etc.

Wish you good luck 66A!
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), “66A on the judgement day” 24th March, 2015, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/

Why “India’s daughter” and sons cry in anger? Let us face it

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/
  

When technology can(not) save the brave women

CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER

It had been months since I last wrote my blog on cyber crimes against women because of my other commitments. I had been travelling to Meghalaya, to Bhubaneswar and to Kolkata for attending seminars and workshops on cyber crimes as a resource person to talk on cyber crimes against women.  Yes, all three included taking flights and then taking taxis to respective accommodations. This is the first time that I was continuously travelling with one or two weeks gap and I immensely enjoyed my journey with my new smart phone. On previous occasions I could never use the camera devices within the flight because I was not that comfortable either with the journey in the flights or with handling camera along with my books, papers and flight documents. I was a novice. But this time, I was smarter. I kept the mobile smart phone handy and could capture some wonderful moments in the flight. Well, and why not when I got the lyricist Illayaraja as my VIP co-passenger…..like all others, I too got a selfie with him and proudly circulated it among my friends (obviously after taking his permission). In all these three occasions I immensely enjoyed the learning sessions in other speaker’s sessions and I loved arguing about my understanding of laws related to S.66A of the Information Technology Act and other related provisions.  I loved roaming around in the cities either by walking or by taxi. The most surprising for me was definitely the taxi system in Kolkata since I never thought like other cities Kolkata will also have luxury cars turned into taxis putting a great competition for our good and old Yellow taxis.
Then happened the Uber taxi rape case in Delhi with this unfortunate yet brave woman who was molested and raped by this rapist taxi driver who was driving the taxi operated by Uber.
No, I did not use any app for booking my taxies and it was quite new for me as well. I was still following the old rule of booking the taxi from the hotel or getting a taxi from the shopping mall by either directing talking to the driver or through prepaid taxi-counters.  The Uber cab rape case made me think twice as what I should learn about using technology while travelling. Let me tell you, that the one and only “page” I follow for road safety is the page by Safetipin.com,  even though I have never contributed to the site and  I know the data thus provided in such apps  for positive gain of the society, may  be misused by miscreants as well.  But Uber case was altogether very different. The cab was registered with the company who runs it from their head office in the US and through the mobile app, one can book the cabs in selected cities in India. What the customer generally gets to know is the number of the car, the photograph and cell phone number of the driver. This particular cab did not have certain basic security features including the name and photograph and the photocopy of the driving license of the driver. The victim was raped and as has been reported by the news media, the driver allegedly threatened to kill victim if she dared to report.  Note that  Uber was supposed to supervise whether the driver and the cab were well monitored through GPS . But in this case, the car did not have the GPS and the driver did not have any sign of it in his mobile as well. The victim however showed her smartness in using the smart-phone  for taking photograph of the number plate of the car and using it as an evidence for lodging  the FIR to the police. I can’t stop praising her guts as even after being molested and threatened, she was not cowed down by threatening and could click the image of the car, which was used as a vital evidence to nab the offender and also take action against the Uber . The company was also pulled in by the prosecution and Uber services were banned in couple of cities in India as they failed in providing proper safe services due to their lacklastering verification process. This can be a fine example of tort liability for every law student in India. But what the Uber cab victim could not do the other few women did in different parts of India; consider the Rohtak sisters whose video of hitting some boys because they were allegedly disturbing the two girls went viral in the internet. Even though later it was claimed by some that these sisters were not defending themselves, but actually beating the boys for public attention, it further created a trend among many to use smart devices for capturing the victimisation or post victimisation scenes. Consider the video of this young woman who was ‘protesting’ body touch by a co-passenger in the Indigo flight recently; the video went viral in the internet. It did not show the complainant, neither the act of touching or molestation, but the alleged harasser and some passengers who were ready to leave the flight. Again, this video claims further benefit of doubt as has been stated by the person who was being protested against. True, no woman can immediately switch on the camera devices to capture the moments of molestation if she is being touched or molested, but when a man or other bystanders take the video or capture images, that may have a better chance to defend the victim’s claim than this one.   
This digital trend similar to “naming and shaming”, is the trend of “sharing, showing and shaming”. The newest of this trend is the circulation (initiated through WhatsApp )  of the images of some men who were allegedly raping a woman (and now the images are floating in the Facebook and other social media and news channel as well). Activist Sunitha Krishnan spread the images for tracing the rapists. I am not aware as how the rape scenes have gone viral from the rapists or the bystanders, but definitely if the allegations are real, then this is another case of rapists  behaviour of what I call “rape while I tape”, meaning   recording the rape for his own pleasure which is an example of extremely sick mentality.  But my question is how far “sharing, showing and shaming” can be beneficial to victims, as well as the society? Not always it can be beneficial. It can be risky as well .  I agree with Professor Danielle Citron, writer of the book Hate crimes in Cyber space, which I had the privilege of reviewing, where she discusses about risks involved in naming and shaming (pp.109-111).  Similarly, in cases of “sharing, showing and shaming”, the victim woman may use her devices to record the traces of victimisation, but it further needs to be forensically proved and again, the burden of proof lies on the victim as well as the prosecution. The ‘perpetrator’ can always claim to be portrayed wrongly. Further, tell me how many of the police officials who may be contacted with such digital records taken by the victim herself, would believe the victims? I tell it from my own experiences of dealing with victims of crimes including cyber crimes, not many police officials are even able to safely record the images from the victim’s devices. It may bring further secondary harassment to victims when she is ridiculed by the moral police groups or supporters of the alleged harasser.

But brave women, I salute you for what you have done and wish that your struggle is rewarded. This reminds me of the hard truth again …… technology is a double edged weapon and it may not always help the women even when it is used with immense hope that it would actually help.
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),When technology can(not) save the brave women” “ 6th February,,2015, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/

KISS …..but beware

CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER

When a young couple was caught on camera kissing and hugging each other in Kerala, and it was labelled as ‘immoral activity’ which India would not tolerate, started the online Kiss of Love campaign in Facebook.  A brief research on this campaign would show that people supporting it are basically spreading the message against moral policing, which unfortunately has become very much ‘happening’ in India for past few years.  In the Indian society moral policing begins right from our own homes. Consider a Twin or an adolescent child asking his parents about what is sex and you may in the very next minute, presume what answer he might get: either the (progressive) parents would tell him that this is nothing but a process of reproduction, or the (orthodox) parents would thrash him and ask him to stop speaking with his friends who are over enthusiastic  about the subject, or curtail his TV timing. Rarely any parent would feel that the children of Technology era may find their answer in the internet without letting their parents even having a trace of it.  our generation who were connected to our friends and relatives through landline phones and snail mails and  our parents or grandparents could never have imagined that sexual gratification of oneself could be achieved by exchanging sexted photographs through phones; mostly grew up watching young couples doing such ‘immoral activities’ like kissing and hugging in shady places. Some of the much popular places of young couple of our generation in various metro cities were Victoria Memorial in Kolkata or Lal Bag garden in Bangalore or the Marina beach in Chennai . Other than these, bushy and lonely places in the colleges or Universities also provided excellent ‘private’ places for young couples. Unlike these days, couples did not have in- built camera devices with them to capture the private moments, but there were ‘spies’ (mostly engaged by the families), who would act as agents of moral policing by taking voyeur pictures only to either motivate the parents to forcefully stop  the rendezvous or  make a police complaint against the boy for harassing the girl. In some cases such acts of moral policing had also been used to defame the girl and her family. Many of such young couples may not finally make a strong couple and start a family. Even in this generation also, this observation stands true. There are umpteen amounts of resources available which may vouch that either the girl was emotionally overpowered by the boy, who wanted enjoy the forbidden pleasure; or both of them wanted to enjoy sexual stimulation by non-penetrative body contact which may include kissing, rubbing, hugging etc. For matured and older teens and young adults of extremely orthodox families, this may be the result of suppression of sexual fantasies. But could such activities like kissing be called ‘immoral’ when done in public places? While the Indian Penal Code gives a broader view on this in S.294(a) by stating that any obscene act done in public is punishable by law; for senior teens it may become even more risky with the existence of Prevention of children from sexual offences Act,2012. But note that none of these laws explain what is ‘immoral’ or what is ‘obscene’. However, there are some regional laws which have covered such subjects under the broader nuance of ‘nuisance’ in public; for example, Police Acts in many metro cities such Kolkata, Karnataka, Bombay police Acts etc, gives power to any officer to take action against any individual for exposing oneself indecently in public places or committing wilful nuisance in public places. While the word ‘indecent’ has also a broader connotation quite like the word ‘obscenity’ under the Indian laws, kissing in public with sexual connotation has been tagged as a subject of indecency due to these laws which were influenced by Indian culture as well as British colonial understanding of ruling the country. But our judiciary has shown an extra ordinary modern mind set when it comes to supporting these laws or police actions for arresting couples for kissing in public. Consider this one case in 2009 where the Delhi High Court refused to accept the case against a young married couple who were caught kissing in the metro station; the High court ruled that kissing by newly married couple in public place can not be called obscene(http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Kissing-in-public-by-married-couple-not-obscene-HC/articleshow/4066941.cms) ; or consider the case of Richard Gere and Shilpa Shetty kissing case which attracted huge comments from moral policing groups. In 2007 Gere was sentenced to be arrested for kissing Shilpa on the dais where they were promoting AIDS awareness campaign by a Rajasthan Court. Subsequently the Supreme court quashed the order stating that there was nothing obscene in the act of Gere kissing Shilpa.
But then why such hype about kissing in public?
I am one who opposes the idea of publicising emotions, especially those with sexual connotation in public. 15 years  back as a fresh law graduate when I arrived in Chennai, I had been a victim of such moral policing when I was ‘caught’ patting my the-then boy friend, now husband as I was appreciating him for one of his scholarly articles. I was warned not only by the parents of some adult women who stayed in the working women’s hostel, but also by the matron and other board members of the Hostel. They felt by seeing me other women would also pick up this habit. It was alarming for me as I understood Tamil Nadu is extremely orthodox when it comes to public display of emotion to your boyfriend or husband. But on the very next day I did get to see so many couples in the Marina beach doing a bit more than what I did. May be I should have been bold enough to confront the society. But the ‘damage’ was already done. I started realising the fact that if one publicly displays his/her emotions the protestors may warn or create a havoc not because they are propagating the so called ‘decent’ culture of India, but because they may also instantly feel the suppressed sexual desire to touch the ‘target’ and ‘experiment’ the same activities. My realisation was not born out of imagination. It was due to several write-ups about mob-sexual violence and sexual psychology of people who were brought up by families where sexual violence was considered as normal trick for ‘taming’ women. I was not bold and aware as the NALSAR university girls who fought back the people who were filming them when they were enjoying their farewell party at a pub (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/people/Wronged-girls-now-ready-to-fight-back/articleshow/19542082.cms). But now when I am aware, I am still a little rigid; but don’t fall in the strict group of moral police who would thrash the young couple. The public kissing campaign can neither get full support from me as my understanding says there may be some (rare) incidents  where campaigners especially women may have to face unwanted harassment.
My understanding has one more reason. Consider some instances when young women receive some ‘smily’ and it is not to be smiled at all….. women receiving ‘kiss’ through apps in their digital devices has started becoming  an alarming issue now. In the digital place too we have private as well as public place and when a stranger starts sending ‘kiss’ to a woman either in the public chat room or private profiles, it becomes not only annoying, but also frightening to the ‘target’.  I have seen many women who had received such ‘kiss’ from strangers or little known acquaintances, start feeling extremely uncomfortable in the digital space. The signal is clear; if kissing in public place is not a ‘crime’ then why would sending a ‘kiss’ online be a crime? We need to understand that every revolution, every positive improvement has a side effect  and it depends upon how the message is being interpreted by individuals. While kissing or physical touching by two lovers in public places especially in serene atmosphere or lonely places can be a sweet experience for them, the ‘scene’ may not leave a sweet memory for many. Digital place anonymity has posed a dangerous question on the safety of women and activities such as ‘kissing in public’ (even if it is between two lovers or if the kiss is not made with sexual connotation) may also have a darker shadow in the digital space.

We need more awareness and education regarding usage of digital space and the most important; we need to have better sex-education, health and hygiene education in the schools. Let us hope love spreads everywhere and in a very comfortable way not leaving behind any track to let hate or mischievousness destroy the beautiful feeling of human beings.

What should we learn from the case of Ray Rice?

CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER

One of the trending news in Facebook and Twitter now is that of Ray Rice. He punched his the- then girlfriend, made her unconscious and dragged her from the elevator in inhuman ways; so what is the big issue in it? As the media reports say, he is now married to his ‘victim’ Janay Palmer, even though there are records that he had had the most dangerous ‘punch’ delivered on her which many women consider a good ground to not to continue any relationship, leave marriage. I was going through Professor Mary Anne Franks’s Facebook posts regarding this. I, like many of her fans who follow her scholarly write-ups, at first thought that this was an issue of another celeb-scandal. But when I went through the media reports that Professor Franks shared and her comments on that, I felt shocked. One of the ‘comments’ that I read in her posts stated that Rice was taught to blow punches to knock down hardest man and also was taught to not to use these for anyone other than his opponents in sports or for self defence. What drew attention of the world was the cctv footage of the whole act and the actions that had been taken or should be taken against him. What drew my attention was, pleading from the sensible people including Dr.Franks to not to watch or share this video as this may add more humiliation to the woman who has been victimised. I agree. In India after the Badaun case, many started sharing the images; some for showing genuine concern and some for using it as a warning message for women who dare to break the obnoxious rules setup by some societies to restrict women’s rights  to speech, to life and to choose a partner of her own choice. I was one of the many who got requests from Facebook friends and acquaintances to share the images. My answer was my blog @ http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.in/2014/06/what-does-social-media-has-to-do-with.html. I had this realisation especially after I did my research on online victimisation of Andaman Jarawa women (the online version can be found @ http://bjc.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/05/05/bjc.azu026.abstract?keytype=ref&ijkey=3XNPIViieFGse4G). Why only Badaun case? In the internet one can find thousands of footages which show humiliation of women in various ways and I am not talking about pornographic sites only. There are videos of kicking, hitting, verbally abusing, dragging women or even unwanted and unwelcome touching. There are also footages of kissing or love-making which may have been uploaded either as a secret leak of cctv footage or as planned uploading of revenge porn materials.
The common behaviour that can be expected from the people in such cases is, they glance those audio-visual or still images to satisfy their own inquisitiveness and may also share them to show concern (both in positive as well as negative meaning) and may also add their own ‘comments’ to make the ‘items’ more enjoyable for the trolls. In our latest article “Revenge porn by teens: a socio-legal analysis”(International Annals of Criminology, 51(1-2),85-111), we had shown how revenge porn becomes an offensive material the same way. Many don’t understand that by contributing more ‘hits’ to these clippings they are actually contributing more towards the humiliation of the victim. I remember couple of years back there was this YouTube clipping which was doing rounds in the internet : of an angry young woman with a small child in her lap, hitting, punching and violently pulling the hair of another woman and the husband, who were ‘caught red handed’ having a extra marital affair. The abuser was not alone; she was accompanied by some of her women relatives who were also hurling abusive words to the ‘other woman’ and the husband. Whether this was an amateur ‘YouTube short movie’ or a genuine incidence recorded by an agitated relative of the wife whose husband was denying her the love and care for another woman, is unknown to me. But this video was instantly spread in the internet attracting hundreds of comments, for as well as against the ‘wife’. If this was a genuine video, it needs to be understood that this could have reduced the ‘wife’s’ chance to claim justice as the ‘other woman’ could win over her due to the physical as well as online humiliation she may have got. Due to the tremendous developments in the laws, especially in evidence laws in India, influenced by availability and genuineness of the   digital records and also the human habits of depending over the digital communication technology for positive as well as negative gains, the perception of the society and the criminal justice administration towards direct digital crimes and indirect (sometimes it may be non-voluntary as well) crimes have also changed. On the positive side, let us hope that soon the prosecution would also start including the liability of those who add more insults to the victim by ‘enjoying’ the visual images of victimisation. Unless people show concern by not seeing, commenting and spreading of such humiliating images, victims would continue 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. (2014), “What should we learn from the case of Ray Rice?13th September,2014, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/

When reporting is not welcome

CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER

Last month I attended the National Commission for Women of India’s consultation meet on cybercrime against women as an expert. I not only got to meet other luminaries on law, cyber security and gender studies from all over India, I took this golden opportunity to learn more about some practical issues from the experts in the field. Almost all of us in the consultation meet unanimously agreed that majority of online crimes against women go unnoticed because women don’t report the crime. Why online crimes? There are thousands of cases of offline gender harassment, wife abuse, elder abuse and child abuse are going around in all of our neighbourhoods, but how many of us really know about it? How many of the victims actually feel that the cases are worth reporting? How many families encourage the victim to report the matter to the police? The recently released NCRB report would tell the sorry state of affairs in this regard. This is for the first time that the NCRB report has included statistics about cyber crime targeting women in India. A glance to it would show that neither the new laws (as has been brought by the Criminal law amendment Act, 2013) were used properly for booking the crimes, nor there were much numbers of cases registered with the police. If one sees ongoing studies on gender harassment, it may be noted that in many places in India the victims have complained about non cooperation by the police when it comes to registering the crime. I agree with some of such findings. In many cases of wife abuse, sexual assault on women to even eve teasing in public places etc., may not receive proper police attention for various reasons. There are instances where driven by frustration, many women had either committed suicide, or had killed their children along with them, or had turned into chronic psycho-patients. In the cases of cyber crimes, my understanding says the reason for police apathy largely stems out from the lack of knowledge about the nature of the crime. I have discussed about this in many of my scholarly works.  However, I can not but put the equal share of blame on the victims as well. I have seen many young women victims of cyber crime, who were eager to report the matter to the police. Nonetheless, there are officers in the police department who are equally eager to help in such cases. I personally know some of such officers who take special interest in helping victims of cyber crime cases and who take special initiatives to encourage people to report cases of victimisation.  But they turn helpless when the victims suddenly decide to turn back. It needs to be noted that now in every district in all States in India, the police head quarters must compulsorily have cyber crime cell. This means that even if the local police stations officers are unequipped to register cases of cyber crime, a victim can directly go to the district police headquarters for seeking help. True, due to absence of mutual legal assistance treaties in cyber crime cases, some cases involving foreign jurisdictions may not be solved by the police. But still then, a case must be registered. Also, if the harasser is known to the victim, stays in the same locality and takes up digital ways to harass the victim, the police may solve the cases within record time only if the victim cooperates with the police. I have my personal experience in such cases and I highly appreciate such police officers who take personal interest in such kinds of cases even if the victim decides to withdraw in the mid-way. But unfortunately in many cases no FIR may be lodged due to the pressure from the victim’s own family.  As one officer expressed his concern, if no case is registered, yet the victim seeks help of the police, the police can still work on the case on the mutual understanding between the complainant and the officer, but to a certain limit. No procedural action can be taken to safeguard the victim or even taking the harasser to the next levels of investigation or even prosecution. This is because there are umpteen numbers of cases where victims had turned hostile during the prosecution and the policing of the case was questioned by the courts for no fault of the police personnel. Victims and their families must understand that they play an equal role or even greater role in executing the laws. Other wise, the laws would remain just ‘name sake laws’. One of the greatest examples is probably S.354D of the Indian Penal Code which addresses stalking as well as cyber stalking. While cases of offline stalking are being booked under this provision, online stalking is still not ‘understood’ properly either by the police or by the general public due to almost nil number of reported cases.
Women, please understand that unless we report the crimes, no one would come over to help. The cycle of harassment would continue to increase. Last but not the least; we will continue to have a police organisation who will be unaware of the present trends of online crimes and how to deal with such crimes since the victims would never make the police aware of the new trends of crimes.
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. (2014), When reporting is not welcome, 23rd August,2014, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/

Equality for women still a dream?

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.
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. (2014), “Equality for women still a dream ?”  Published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/

Virtual women trafficking sets in : be aware

CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DR.DEBARATI HALDER

Using commercial web portals for on-line buying and selling is the new trend that is gripping India fast. For long there were questions of credibility of the on-line classifieds and e-commerce portrayals and many had complained after they were duped by such on-line classifieds. I myself had received and still receive many complaints of fraudulent promises on such web portals, awful customer care responses, delay in completion of the contract or even duping of prospective buyers by ‘vanishing sellers’  once the payment has been made. Typically there are several categories of perpetrators and basically one group of victims; namely the prospective buyers; rather there ‘were’ !  but the power of world wide web proved more than legendary criticism by jean Louis De Lolme  about the  British parliament which says “Parliament can do everything but make woman a man and a man a woman”. Numerous instances are there where World Wide Web had brought in huge surprises including declaring alive men dead, turning innocent children into porn materials and making brilliant students millionaires. But not to forget, it has also brought in virtual women trafficking; a trend that may not have gained major highlights due to erasing nature of the evidences. In the west, Craigslist was one such site which was being used for victimising women by creating the victim’s fake avatars (Halder Debarati,Examining the Scope of Indecent Representation of Women (Prevention) Act, 1986 in the Light of Cyber Victimization of Women in India (May25, 2013). National Law School Journal,Vol. 11, 2013, pp. 188-218 . Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2270061) as one who solicits for sex; the on-line classified site was being misused  by perpetrators who for taking revenge over jilted affair, floated women’s private address, phone numbers and sometimes their very private sexual preferences which would have known  only by the perpetrator himself. There had been instances when such advertisement had lead to rape of the victim by strangers who dropped in at the address provided by the perpetrator. Criaglist started monitoring the contribution of such kinds, especially usage of the same as a dating site when some researchers pointed out how the site was becoming a notorious choice for sexual victimisation women.
        In India for long, on-line victimisation of women had been restricted to social networking sites like Facebook and some adult dating sites. Usage of commercial web-portals for victimisation of women was not  a  ‘trend’ until recently when some one used popular on-line classified Olx.com to actually advertise for  selling  a woman for a paltry sum of Rupees two thousand (see http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-10-30/india/43526620_1_advertisement-police-station-portal). The advertisement was complete with a photograph of the woman and a corresponding name and phone number of the ‘agent’. Interestingly, the ‘agent’ was none other than another victim of identity theft who claimed that his name has been maliciously used to victimise him. The news media contacted the victim of identity theft and later the country manager of the online classified; subsequently the ad was removed. But now, consider the fate of the woman whose photograph was floated as the main subject of virtual women trafficking. May be, the photograph could have been taken from adult sites to victimise the man who had been shown as the agent; may be it is a real picture of a real victim; but the truth is, campaigning for virtual women trafficking for victimisation of women has set in and it has created a huge example for new trends of cyber crimes and on-line victimisation of women. In India human trafficking, including women trafficking is considered illegal and the Indian Penal Code offers various penal provisions to prohibit sale of women ( see pg 6 in Nair (2007), Trafficking women and children for sexual exploitation : a handbook for law enforcement agencies in India , URL: http://www.unodc.org/documents/human-trafficking/India_Training_material/Handbook_for_Law_Enforcement_Agencies_in_India.pdf). Nonetheless, these provisions are proving to be mere written laws especially when the online sites traditionally do not monitor the contributed contents. However, this particular site deserves a special applause since they had withdrawn the offensive advertisement within record time after being notified. But still then, the trend of on-line victimisation of women has taken a new path with this incident and I fear this is going to stay.
Hope my fear is proved baseless very soon.
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), “Virtual women trafficking sets in : be aware, 10thNovember,2013, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/

Protect your image, not the image destroyer

CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER

Very recently I came across the news of a victim of domestic violence who had been badly physically abused. All attempts to hide the bruises in her face were failed. She was in pain for several days before she could actually gather herself up to join the daily chores of life by her sheer will power. When some of us, her well wishers advised her to report the matter to the police immediately, she retreated. Her sole concern was to protect the family. The case seems similar to many of the domestic violence cases in India as well as in many parts of south Asia where the victim refuses to see the police in fear of losing the faith in her ‘dear ones’. The story is no different for on line abuses. Many women are constantly abused on-line by their own family members, especially doubtful husbands, or someone in whom they once had deep trust, like the ex boyfriends or the ex husbands.  In the digital space, it is extremely easy to spoil the image of the woman. Show her actual picture with dirty tag-line, morph her picture to affix her face on nude bodies, show the pictures of vagina and emboss her name on it, rape her virtually by affixing human hands on the picture of her body parts, especially breasts and lower abdomen and allure others to do the same……. these are some of the examples of abusing the image of a woman which had been discussed by many feminist researchers in their write ups including me in my paper titled “Examining the scope of Indecent Representation of Women (Prevention) Act, 1986 in the light of cyber victimisation of women in India (See Halder Debarati, Examining the Scope of Indecent Representation of Women (Prevention) Act, 1986 in the Light of CyberVictimization of Women in India (May 25, 2013). National Law School Journal,Vol. 11, 2013, pp. 188-218 . Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2270061). But no wonder, majority of the victims feel extremely embarrassed to visit the police. Why? The case of this particular victim of domestic abuse made me realise the truth again; the woman has to live in the society where her relatives including her father, brother or even husband or even her women folk are also staying. They may never like to be tagged as the relative of a victim of on-line abuse, especially when many still believe that on-line abuses such as these mostly occur due to the victim’s own (mis)deeds. Many victims retreat from reporting the crime in fear for loss of job and loss of reputation not for them, but for the family members including the husband in case he is the abuser himself. Some even fear for loss of reputation of the girls in the family in the marriage market. In some cases, the fear is not baseless especially when the police starts tracing the crime and haunts the offices or workplaces of the accused, who may be directly related to the victim or her family. Also, the police have almost set a trend to tag such crimes as either pornographic crimes, or obscene or sexually harassing crimes… all of which may  bring shame to the victim when she is asked about it in the typical questioning pattern set for physical crimes falling under the broad title of sexual crimes. Thanks to the confused laws, less interest of legal drafts men ,the police authorities and the criminal justice machinery in reviewing recent academic researches on the new developments of  international as well as national laws, the young and enthusiastic police  officers (who are rare in number) never get any chance to book the offences as per their own judgements and the crimes continue to add to the categories of traditionally laid down definitions, giving less chances to examine their  true characters. But unlike the physical cases of image destroying of the victim by hitting her and bruising her face, cutting her skin and flesh and permanently damaging her looks, where the accused could be arrested or the victim could be separated from the accused, in cases of on-line crimes of image destruction, the accused may remain hidden or may carry on further damages while the police carry on further investigation. This is extremely frustrating for the victim. Then comes the juggling of the jurisdiction in cases where the accused reside outside the jurisdiction of the local police. While the Criminal Procedure Code clearly empowers the police to carry on the investigation in such cases, red tapism never leaves. A married woman never wants to lose her time in such tangle especially when she has to look after her children, her job and her family. Resultant, either she herself leaves the battle ground with deep frustration which may even lead her to commit suicide, or may take up some illegal ways to remove the image quickly. The actual image destroyer enjoys his misdeeds with no repent.
But time has come when women, especially married women must take time to save their own physical images rather than saving the image destroyer. Let us hope that the courageous women may face the situation more bravely to save themselves.
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), “Protect your image, not the image destroyer, 3rd September,2013, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/