Tag: #webwonderwomen

Duping women in the name of matured friendship: The Pollachi sextortion case

CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER

Couple of days back I received a friends request on FaceBook from a male profile whom I do not know either personally or through any of my networks. But the profile was apparently very impressing : the man was an alumni of Oxford University , works in Mercedes Benz company and he is better looking than the average. From  my experience as a cybercrime victim counsellor , lawyer and a cyber right activist for more than a decade now  I could understand that this may be one of many fake profiles that are created to allure women (and not necessarily  young girls) to trap them and victimize them through online and offline crimes including sexual crimes. It is an obvious phenomena now that women, especially educated women are using social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc for expanding their network  for various purposes including Job searching, getting connected with like-minded people, expanding their research network , volunteering for social causes etc.  
In the recently held #Webwonderwomen award ceremony in Delhi, the Ministry of Women and Child affairs awarded 30 women including myself the #Webwonderwomen award for positively using social media (especially Twitter), spreading awareness about the social causes they are working on and their real life support for women empowerment all across India. It was a joint initiative of Ministry of Women and Child affairs, Twitter and Breakthrough India. My fellow awardees work in different fields of public health, women’s health, right to breast feeding, women empowerment, journalism especially for the causes of women, proper nutrition for women, education for women and girls especially in socio-economically backward sectors of the society, empowering women of all age group from socio-economically backward sectors  about their rights against domestic violence, sexual reproduction rights etc.  All of them could actually make their journey stronger because of positive use of social media. I too have been using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc  to get connected with  people who have become my knowledge partners, mentors and friends in the field of law and policy especially for Cyber Victimology, Cyber law for women, Cyber Criminology, Revenge Porn, Non consensual porn,  Women’s Rights, Child Rights, Criminal law, Penology, Therapeutic Jurisprudence  etc.  It would not have been possible for me reach to the world about my work including my pro bono work without social media and the friends that I have made. I consider myself privileged to have 24 hours  access to internet  and a platform where I can share my opinion bravely, gather information without any fear and build a reputation.  Some of my fellow awardees  could win this award staying in remote places because they are well connected with the world through internet and social media.  Internet as such has given a platform to earn money in a positive way too. Consider thousands of women who make daily/weekly/monthly  Vlogs and upload it on Youtube . They have their recognition as “Youtuber” and YouTube duly recognizes their “popularity” (marketability) by awarding and rewarding them.
But still then, internet is not safe for women.  The Pollachi case proved it again.  Pollachi is the second largest town in Coimbatore district in Tamil Nadu.  This place is famous for its world famous jaggery  market and beautiful lush green agricultural fields. One would actually not imagine that this can be a center for news on cyber crimes against women, but it has now surfaced because of a brave young woman who had lodged a complaint against  the  smart gang of men who had been “enjoying” sex by way of connecting with women through fake profiles (mostly of women), grooming them to enter into chats and sharing more details, turning the chats into typical sex chats and then alluring them to come and meet in person. In my book Cyber crimes against women in India (coauthored with  prof(Dr) Jaishankar, Halder D., & Jaishankar K. (November 2016). Cyber Crime against Women in India. New Delhi: SAGE. ISBN: 978-93-859857-7-5.) I had discussed about such kinds of grooming and consequent victimization of women and this can be shown through the flow chart as below:
Image created by Dr.Debarati Halder 
 This brave woman was sexually harassed , molested and assaulted when she went to meet the so called ‘friends’, who had been doing this to many women, recording their sexual assault in their phones and threatening them to leak the clippings if they dare to refuse their demands or to go to the police. The police has now arrested all the four members of the gang applying provisions including Ss. 354A, B of the Indian Penal Code , S.66E of the Information technology Act and S.4 of the  Tamil Nadu Prohibition of harassment of women’s Act. [1]. Let us see what do these provisions say and whether  these Sections may play a pivotal role in delivering justice to women victims such as this brave heart:
S. 354A of the IPC says
(1) “A man committing any of the following acts—
(i)  physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures;
(ii) or a demand or request for sexual favours;
(iii)or showing pornography against the will of a woman;
(iv) or making sexually coloured remarks, shall be guilty of the offence of sexual harassment.
(2) Any man who commits the offence specified in clause (i) or clause (ii) or clause (iii) of sub-section (1) shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
Any man who commits the offence specified in clause (iv) of sub-section (1) shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.
S.354 B of the Indian Penal Code states that
“Any man who assaults or uses criminal force to any woman or abets such act with the intention of disrobing or compelling her to be naked, 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.”.
S.66E of the Information technology Act 2000 (amended in 2008) states as follows:
 Punishment for violation of privacy. -Whoever, intentionally or knowingly captures, publishes or transmits the image of a private area of any person without his or her consent, under circumstances violating the privacy of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years or with fine not exceeding two lakh rupees, or with both. Explanation. -For the purposes of this section-
(a) “transmit” means to electronically send a visual image with the intent that it be viewed by a person or persons;
(b) “capture”, with respect to an image, means to videotape, photograph, film or record by any means;
(c) “private area” means the naked or undergarment clad genitals, pubic area, buttocks or female breast;
(d) “publishes” means reproduction in the printed or electronic form and making it available for public; e) “under circumstances violating privacy” means circumstances in which a person can have a reasonable expectation that;-
(i) he or she could disrobe in privacy, without being concerned that an image of his private area was being captured; or
(ii) any part of his or her private area would not be visible to the public, regardless of whether that person is in a public or private place.
Section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment Act states as follows:
Penalty for harassment of woman: Whoever commits or participates in or abets harassment of woman in or within the precincts of any educational institution, temple or other place of worship, bus stop, road, railway station, cinema theatre, park, beach, place of festival, public service vehicle or vessel or any other place shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine which shall not be less than ten thousand rupees.”
Noticeably, this provision may have been used for punishing the accused for committing the crime in the “specific place”; for secluding the victim from her  ‘comfort zone’ where she could have raised an alarm for help and committing the crime in a place which may be a public place or a moving vehicle from where the victim may not escape easily. 
The other news report suggested that the District Collector had ordered for detention of the accused under Goondas Act (officially known as Tamil Nadu Prevention of  Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Drug offenders, Goondas, Immoral traffic offenders, Sand offenders, Slum grabbers, and Video pirates Act, 1985) .[2]In my earlier blog I had explained how Goondas Act can be relevant in cyber offences by stating that this law can be very relevant especially where crimes including committing or attempting to commit extortion of money , threatening for the same, cheating, etc are involved.[3]
However, I have not seen any news report indicating that S.67A of the Information Technology Act (amended in 2008) was used for booking of the offences or not. This Section speaks about   Punishment for publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act, etc., in electronic form and says “Whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published or transmitted in the electronic form any material which contains sexually explicit act or conduct shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees and in the event of second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years and also with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees”. It does not necessarily speak about creating such content by clicking the images and this has to be inferred from the provision itself. However, this lacuna has been partly covered by S.66E of the Information technology Act which speaks about violating the privacy of any individual.

Clearly, this is not a case of revenge porn, but a case of non consensual porn especially when the accused persons would have stored the clipping of sexual assault of the woman concerned with an intention of visual sexual gratification through the clipping/s and also to use it for future threatening or creating/producing sexually explicit contents on internet . But unfortunately the laws are still handicapped in this regard when it comes to grooming and sextortion. There is no law which may holistically cover the whole issue of grooming women for sexual gratification , which is narrowly addressed in the POCSO Act. Here lies the major lacuna which may have motivated many for victim blaming. 
Women like Pollachi brave heart would not have created “virtual friendship” with another unknown man or woman unless the perpetrator would have customized the fake profile to gain trust. This could have been done by thorough data mining about the victim/s.  apparently the victims of this gang were adult women including doctors, teachers etc. Such perpetrators look for their prey from social media profiles who may have not taken full precautions to protect their albums, posts, friend lists and above all the email ids and/or the  phone numbers  which  are used for accessing social media through phones. This ignorance may invite major risks as this particular case. However, social media site is also to be blamed for not monitoring the creation of fake profiles which they would not necessarily scan unless someone reports the profile as fake.
This case should have a happy ending and this can be possible only when this particular  victim and other victims of this gang cooperate with the prosecution till the end and the police uses its legal power to extract all evidences from the social media website. We as civil society members are also responsible to make a happy ending of this case : please do not circulate the images of the victim/s if in case you are conveyed the images from any number, profile etc. Such circulation would also attract penal provisions against the person who may not be directly involved in the case, but may circulate it thinking that it is “fun” to circulate such images, or he/she is doing the same to make the society aware that such crimes have happened. We all should respect the privacy of the victims and at the same time praise the victims for breaking social taboo  and reporting the matter to the police.
Stop cybercrimes against women. Start positive usage of social media .
Please note : Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use information provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2019),Duping women in the name of matured friendship: The Pollachi sextortion case  ” 12th March, 2019 , published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com

Women’s Day, 2019 : Views of a #webwonderwoman

webwonderpic

Picture Curtsy: https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/centre-honours-30-web-wonder-women-for-driving-reforms-via-social-media-2003833?fbclid=IwAR0h6TDvuaPHOP_mFZuq2Z3Tbk8szdy–8inqBOiBqhd4bVpo7rTudLeY1s

 

In a late afternoon in the last week of February, 2019 I received a message from Ministry of Women & Child Affairs, Government of India congratulating me for winning the #webwonderwomen award in the category of Legal/policy . #Webwonderwomen is an initiative of Ministry of women & Child, BreakThrough India, an NGO which works for women and girls and Twitter to honor 30 women  from diverse fields who had used Twitter positively for spreading awareness, reaching out to people in need and above all, advocating for women empowerment. Among the 30 women were women activists, lawyers, journalists, sanitation & public health activists, food blogger & nutritionist, film maker, activist promoting breast-feeding, women government officials and myself, who works for victims, especially women victims of cyber crimes.  There were different heartwarming  as well as heart breaking stories told by award winners ; they shared stories of  failures and success, happiness and pain, the feeling of being ridiculed by others because of their support to other women. No wonder, I have also gone through the same while executing my wish to help victims of cyber crimes: I have been cyber  bullied, stalked, trolled and threatened by men and women for my work . I have been asked ridiculous questions regarding my “attachment” with the virtual world. Finally with this award, I could prove that being on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or on internet as a whole for more than the time allotted for general women by their families and societies is not that bad. I have an “unlimited” (in regard to time)  access to net and my husband respects my time on net.  I am fortunate to make this space. I have seen many women who are not allowed to be on net for more than a limited period by their families especially men folk, who may be enjoying (consuming) avatars of other women when their women enter the ‘restricted time period’ for net surfing on a daily basis.

This women’s day is special because as #webwonderwomen awardee I have become a proud ambassador of the Ministry of women and children affairs like my fellow award winners. This is also special because on the very day when I received the award, I saw nothing changed when it comes to cyber crimes against women. While going through the newspaper that very morning, I noticed two news items which  made me think how womens day becomes meaningless for several thousands of women victims of cyber crimes : one was regarding a gang rape survivor who came across the clipping of her own rape scene and dared to walk into the police station to report not only about the physical rape, but also about the virtual consumption of her physical assault by many. The second was about duping of a woman in a renowned matrimonial site . None of these incidents is new for me. However, I salute the rape survivor who took the matter to the police. She must have undergone severe secondary victimization and traumatization by now just like the other victim that I mentioned above. We do not know what would happen to them later: how far the police and prosecution  may help  them ? with a limited legal awareness and fear of  societal taboo, many victims like these two have to withdraw their cases and disappear.

Women’s day is necessarily  related to The Convention on elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW), which was adopted by the UN general Assembly in 1979 and which defines discrimination against women as “…any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.”  The scope of this definition has automatically expanded to include gender discrimination, misogyny and abuse of women’s rights online.  I was more interested in the award ceremony because of Twitter as its  partner.  Social media like Twitter, Faceook , Instagram, YouTube etc are used for women empowerment. But they are notorious platforms for victimization of women. This year’s theme for International women’s day is “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change” , which signifies women empowerment in the field of technology and innovative work by women and men alike for gender equality and betterment of  situation of women across the globe. This won’t fructify unless web companies take the responsibility of  providing safety against gross abuse of women. As women activists, many of us know that there more takers of CEDAW; but how many States are actually ensuring proper implementation of laws especially for women victims of cybercrimes is a question that needs to be researched. There is no uniform law to recognize several cyber offences against women. Majority of countries have no laws for prevention of cyber bullying, stalking, impersonation  of women, online sexual offences  targeting women.  Sexting and revenge porn still fall in the grey line in majority of the countries. It is still considered a taboo for women to watch porn ; women who are caught watching porn/porn contents  are severely moral policed by the society . But on the other hand, when men watch porn including revenge porn and nonconsensual porn, it is still considered as normal because unless the websites flag them as illegal , men (and in certain cases women and  children too) may not be prevented even by the courts because apparently the victims would not have moved the police and / or the courts for taking action to take down the offensive contents .   Majority of these victims may be completely unware of the fact that they have been made subjects of  online consumption as ‘sex items’. Consider the case of  socio-economically poor  women who may be trafficked and their videos of having sexual activities may be floating for many years without making them understand how they are being ‘consumed’ by millions.[1]

“Think equal, build smart, innovate for change” would be possible only when the society including the government stakeholders  as a whole come together to take a holistic step towards preventing cyber victimization of women and creating safe place for women and girls online and in real life.

Wish you all, a very happy WOMEN’S DAY . Lets “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change”.

 

[1] See for example Halder D., & Jaishankar, K. (2014). Online Victimization of Andaman Jarawa Tribal Women: An Analysis of the Human Safari YouTube Videos (2012) and its Effects. British Journal of Criminology, 54(4), 673-688. (Impact factor 1.556). DOI: 10.1093/bjc/azu026.

 

Please Note: This blog was first posted @   “Halder D. (2019), ” Women’s Day, 2019 : Views of a #webwonderwoman”  8th March, 2019 ,@https://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/2019/03/womens-day-2019-views-of-webwonderwoman.html?spref=fb&fbclid=IwAR1-zH4VuTEEisNLYWogvHvMDOfWDduzkGWvlRl05_CzfopCRtF9OJ3tLTc

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