CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER
It comes no surprise to me when I read the news about Department of Telecommunication’s order to put a blanket ban on 39 websites which are used to create or distribute porn materials (See http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/tech/tech-news/internet/Govt-goes-after-porn-makes-ISPs-ban-sites/articleshow/20769326.cms) . This was rather expected after so much hype through public interest litigations, discussions and debates over the issue of websites catering the need for porn. One more issue which motivated me to presume this was the introduction of criminal law amendment act, 2013 which has brought in not only anti-stalking regulation (solely for women) but also anti-voyeurism legislation. The age of consent issue for rape raised lot of debates which further put this ‘old wine in new bottle’ legislation in boiling debates…………As can be guessed, this was more than expected.
But do I really support this blanket ban? Perhaps yes. The news that I got to read exhibits a line which is as follows “………….blanket ban on websites that allow users to share pornographic content”. While supporting the ban I am looking not at the issue of banning of websites, but at the issue of preventing the users. This ban, if stands the future debates and waves of legal criticisms, can actually prove positively historic. It would actually prevent victimisation of women in the long run in the World Wide Web by some vindictive users. In my latest publication titled “Examining the scope of Indecent Representation of Women (Prevention) Act, 1986 in the light of cyber victimisation of women in India” published in National Law School Journal (2013) 11NLSJ , pgs 188-218 ( the paper can be accessed @ http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2270061) I have elaborately discussed about such vindictive usage of websites by individuals. Such users would be automatically prevented from uploading offensive contents in these websites. This would further resolve the issue of victim-website (non)cooperation issues in such matters. Indeed, this is a boon for so many women victims who had lost hope for any kind of cooperation from the US hosted websites and who feel extremely reluctant to visit the police.
But again, my rational brain refuses to believe in such kinds of flimsy bans. Like so many other researchers, I have my own share on thoughts regarding pornography. I argued in my above mentioned publication that “the concepts of obscenity and pornography overlap with each other and the shadow of obscenity law still shrouded the indecency law” (See pg 200 in Debarati Halder(2013), Examining the scope of Indecent Representation of Women (Prevention) Act, 1986 in the light of cyber victimisation of women in India” published in National Law School Journal (2013) 11NLSJ , pgs 188-218). Which materials would be considered as ‘pornographic’? ………the present law probably has no answer. Which are the websites that would fall in the scope of this ban? ……..no one actually can answer because sites like Facebook are also used to upload materials which can fall in the category of pornography. Further, the anonymous character of users would stand as a towering problem while detecting privately hosted websites. One site deletion may not prevent creation of another. How many sites would be banned then? All these questions may need to be answered before taking up a serious step towards implementing the ban.
Somehow I am having this ghastly feeling that adult pornography is there to stay in India and vindictive users would outsmart the government attempts to stop them. Hope I would be proved wrong.
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