Tag: digital crime

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.