“CYBER CRIMES AGAINST WOMEN- MORE FOCUS ON CYBER STALKING AND CYBER BULLYING”

Security concept: computer keyboard with word Cyber Crime, selected focus on enter button background, 3d render

THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY GAZAL TALWAR A STUDENT OF SYMBIOSIS LAW SCHOOL, PUNE WHO IS  CURRENTLY PURSUING LL.M. IN CRIMINAL AND SECURITY LAWS.

Variously referred to as “Sexual Violence”, “Gender Violence”, or “Violence against Women”, this issue has been under discussion since old times. This fact has gained urgency recently because of the significant work of women advocates and survivors in naming the problem. Violence against women includes domestic violence, rape, trafficking in women and girls, forced prostitution, and violence in armed conflict, such as murder, systematic rape, sexual slavery and forced pregnancy. It also includes honour killings, dowry-related violence, female infanticide and prenatal sex selection in favor of male babies, female genital mutilation, and other harmful practices and traditions. The violence against women is not limited to the above offences but also includes cyber stalking, cyber harassment, cyber pornography, defamation, morphing, email spoofing and other offences. This is the type of crime that is targeted towards a specific group with a victim gender that serves as a primary motive.

“Violence against women and girls continues unabated in every continent, country and culture. It takes a devastating toll on women’s lives, on their families, and on societies as a whole. Most societies prohibit such violence – yet the reality is too often, it is covered up or tacitly condoned”[1]

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) defines violence against women as, “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public and private life.”[2]

Defining cyber crime, we should understand the word crime. Crime, in whatever forms it is in direct or indirect sense has an effect on the society. In today’s world, there is immense increase in the use of Internet in every field of the society and due to which a number of new crimes have evolved. Cyber crime is a global phenomenon.  Cyber crime also known as computer crime refers to a crime that is committed with the help of ‘computer’ and ‘network’. The computer which is essential element of the computer crime can be either is used in the commission of the crime or it can itself be a victim of the crime. Cybercrimes can neither be defined by IT Act, 2000 nor IT Amendment Act, 2008 or in any other legislation in India. The offences related to cybercrime along with their punishments are dealt in an elaborate manner in Indian Penal Code, 1860 as well as other legislations. But to get a view as to what does cybercrime means we can define cybercrime as “Offences that are committed against individuals or groups of individuals with a criminal motive to intentionally harm the reputation of the victim or cause physical or mental harm to the victim directly or indirectly, using modern telecommunication networks such as Internet (Chat rooms, emails, notice boards and groups) and mobile phones (SMS/MMS)” which has a profound impact on nation’s security and financial health. To put it into simple terms, ‘any offence or crime in which a computer is used is a cybercrime’.

Cybercrimes can also be defined as “crimes committed with the use of computers or relating to computers, especially through internet”.[3] Crimes involving use of information or usage of electronic means in furtherance of crime are covered under the scope of cyber crime. Cyber Crimes may be committed against persons, property and government.

A woman deserves three things in her life. First is need of love and affection from her beloved ones. Second is her loved ones should suffer for her in low times and last but not the least the man should highly praise the women and should portray her in the literature as a masterpiece. But in today times, the scenario in context of the above quote has considerably changed. Now the above things are not done with a woman. She is neither loved nor any one suffers for her or makes her into literature as a mark of praise. But now she is tortured, suffered, raped, stalked or any kind of violence that can happen with her.

As the time is changing with the rapid development of new technologies and evolution in such spheres, along with the positive impacts negative aspects are also increasing at an alarming rate. Advancement in technology has also brought about new forms of violence against women. Easy access to new forms of information and communication technologies has given a hike to new forms of harassment and violence such as cyber or phone stalking and increase in demand for pornography.

With the advent of technology, cyber crime and victimization of women are on the high and it poses as a major threat to the security of a person as a whole. Even though India is one of the very few countries to enact IT Act 2000 to combat cyber crimes, issues regarding women still remain untouched in this Act. The said Act has termed certain offences as hacking, publishing of obscene materials in the net, tampering the data as punishable offences. But the grave threat to the security of women in general is not covered fully by this Act.

Cyber crimes against women include various offences that are punishable according to various provisions of the law. Among the various cyber crimes that are being committed against individuals and society at large, the crimes which can be mentioned as specially targeting women are as like harassment via e-mails, cyber-stalking, cyber pornography, mms circulation, camera surveillance etc.

Cyber stalking has been considered as one of the serious cyber crimes that are happening in today’s time. Prior to February 2013, there were no laws that governed or had regulations regarding the offence of cyber stalking in India. Then came Information Technology Act of 2000 (IT Act) that was a set of laws and regulations to regulate the cyberspace. However, it merely focused on financial crimes and neglected interpersonal criminal behaviors such as cybercrime.

 In 2013, Indian Parliament had made amendments to the Indian Penal Code, wherein it introduced cyber stalking as a criminal offence. As per Section 354(d) of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 Stalking has been defined as any man who contacts a woman, despite clear indication of disinterest to such contact by the woman, or monitoring of use of internet or electronic communication of a woman.Section 354(d)(2) states the punishment for the offence as a man committing the offence of stalking would be liable for imprisonment up to three years for the first offence, and shall also be liable to fine and for any subsequent conviction would be liable for imprisonment up to five years and with fine. The first case of cyber stalking in India has been reported and registered by Delhi Police.  The case is as follows:

One Mrs. Ritu Kohli complained to the police against a person that the person has been using her identity to chat over the Internet at the website named www.mirc.com, mostly operating in the Delhi channel for four consecutive days. The victim further complained that the person was chatting on the Net, using her name and giving her address and was talking in obscene language. The same person was also deliberately giving her telephone number to other chatters while encouraging them to call the victim at odd hours. Consequently, the victim received almost 40 calls in three days mostly at odd hours from as far away as Kuwait, Cochin, Bombay and Ahmedabad. The said calls created havoc in the personal life and mental peace of the victim who took a brave decision and decided to report the matter. Consequently, the IP addresses were traced and the police investigated the entire matter and ultimately arrested Manish Kathuria on the said complaint. Manish apparently pleaded guilty and was arrested. A case was registered under section 509, of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for “outraging the modesty” of his victim. Having appropriated her name he “used obscene and obnoxious language”, and thereafter he was released on bail. The said case of Ritu Kohli has raised numerous Cyber law issues. It may be pertinent to mention that the said case came up before the coming into force of the Information Technology Act, 2000, India’s maiden foray in Cyber law.  The case has been registered under section 509, IPC which reads as follows:

Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman. – Whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine or with both.”

After analyzing the entire section stated above it can be averred that the said section does not cover cyber stalking. Even the new Information Technology Act, 2000 does not address the issue of Cyber stalking at all. Another Cyber law issue concerning cyber stalking is which court would have jurisdiction to try the offence of cyber stalking.  There is a need to create more awareness amongst the legislature and the law enforcing agencies regarding this new cybercrime in order to enable its early regulation.

There is a list of precautions for such victims of cyber stalking that should be taken while being on the internet or any social networking site like being wary about what information you provide online, whether it is on a Face Book or any other social networking site, in a blog, on a bulletin board, in the course of chat or in response to an online marketer’s offer of an amazing deal; use pseudonyms in adult chat rooms and gender-neutral names in other forum; do not use a pet’s name as a password (particularly if the pet is referred to in a blog or elsewhere on the web); be alert about sharing passwords with friends or colleagues (although you may take care, they may not).

Moving on to the next serious cyber crime is cyber bullying. According to Microsoft’s ‘Global Youth Online Behavior Survey’ of 25 countries, India ranked third with 53 per cent of respondents (children aged between 8-17) saying they have been bullied online, behind China (70 per cent) and Singapore (58 per cent). Cyber bullying is an extension of general bullying in schools. Cyber bullying is an insidious and covert variation of verbal and written bullying. It is conveyed by adolescents and teens through electronic media such as cell phones, websites, webcams, chat rooms, and e-mail. Cyber bullying can also take the form of sexual photographs (e-mailed in confidence to friends) that are altered and sent to unlimited audiences once relationships sour, ultimately victimization of individuals, in which women share the largest percentage.[4]  The essentials of cyber bullying which distinguish bullying from friendly teasing and horseplay are as follows:

  • First, bullying is unwanted, deliberate, persistent, and relentless, creating a power imbalance between perpetrator(s) and victims.
  • Second, victim blame is a key component, and it is used to justify social exclusion from the peer group.[5]

In India, the survey indicated that 22% of children reported mean or unfriendly treatment, 29% were made fun of or teased and 25% were called mean names. The survey also found that 70% of children said that they know a lot or something about online bullying, while 79% were very or somewhat worried about the phenomenon. 77% reported being bullied online and/or offline. “India is one of the few countries where the rates of online and offline bullying were equal,” the above said survey said.[6]

The internet provides not only a vivid interface for communication, but also the much needed anonymity essential for such a form of harassment. People, inept at social interactions, use the net to vent their aggression as they don’t feel an immediate sense of threat, e. g. Ishan Baggins (name changed), a 21-year-old student from Bhopal, who indulged in cyber bullying says, “A friend of mine was not on Facebook. So one day, when I was really bored, I made a fake profile in his name. Some of my other friends joined me and we started adding the people he knew as friends. We uploaded some of his embarrassing pictures, posted funny comments on girls’ photos and put up hilarious statuses. We found it to be a great way to pass time”!

17-year-old Kiara Desai (name changed), a victim of cyber bullying says, “It isn’t like school, where you can run home for refuge the minute the final bell rings. Internet has taken bullying to a whole new level. And when it’s online, there is no place to hide. And unlike clichéd bulky and strong ones, your bully could be that nave-looking nerd or that silent sophomore.” Letting us in on her experience, Desai says, “A classmate, who had a crush on me, decided to take his revenge for spurning her by creating a fake profile on Facebook and maligning me online. He even wrote about issues, which I was facing in my personal life. Tiding the situation was tough. I shut myself out completely for the two months and became anti-social and phobic of large audiences. It took three counselors and a lot of support to get me back normal.”

There are various strategies for dealing with cyber bullying at every level. At individual level one can either ignore the behavior or respond to it or report it. At an electronic level one can make use of Internet Filtering and blocking;         Parental control software or they can disable unwanted contact option. At an institution level one can prevent it through education or Intervention monitoring or by taking strict and disciplinary action.

Schools and educational authorities may set up educational programs to alert to cyber bullying, inform about its potential damage and thus prevent incidents. Establishing of school policies and monitoring school computers accordingly are intervention approaches available to the institutions to curve or eradicate the abuse. Punitive action such as the loss of internet privileges for perpetrators, detention or even dismals from school for sever or repeat offenders are other measures. The battle against cyber bullying can be fought electronically by institutions and individuals through the installation of filtering and blocking software. Parents may wish to invest into specific parental control software, which is easily switched on and off.

The IT Act, 2000 states punishment to all those publishing information which is obscene as also to any form of breach in privacy and confidentiality. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) also covers this issue. Apart from legal help, victims can also hire private investigators specializing in tracking down cyber bullies. For those who want to find the culprit on their own, you can simply Google Reverse E-mail Finder to find a list of websites which can help you unmask the bully. These websites primarily track the email address down to its user and returns the users identity as also some other personal information.

The new law to protect women online: the existing cyber law was inept to protect and prevent cybercrimes against women in India. However, the amended version has removed many difficulties satisfactorily. Even though the new law cannot be given full marks as a highly appropriate measure to stop atrocities against women online, it is indeed a solace to victim prone women users. The present law (Information technology Act (amended) 2008) has widened the wings in the “offence” chapter to include several serious misdeeds as punishable and penal. For instance, section 66A for the first time brings in a unique provision, “Punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, etc”. If seen from a wide perspective, this section goes on to protect cyber bullying, cyber defamation as well as cyber flame. The wordings of the section are gender neutral. But given the circumstances, this section can even prevent eve teasing online. In other ways a woman when harassed, need not dig in the Indian penal code to categorize the offence as cyber defamation or cyber harassment.

This new Act also deals with identity theft under section 66C. The wordings very much advocate for a provision to protect online economic crimes. But I feel this section can be stretched to cover identity theft related offences attacking women online, for instance, hacking email ids, personal blogs, social networking profiles and using the cloned profiles to disturb others. The wordings under section 66D are again very much for protecting e Commerce, but then look at the wordings of the section: it says “Whoever, by means of any communication device or computer resource cheats by personation, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to one lakh rupees”. This section can be fantastically used to punish those who play nasty games in the online matrimonial forums, the chatting rooms, and social networking websites, besides regular email frauds where older men play as young people to deceive women or to harass women.

The biggest advantage of the new law is, it has given wider protection for the online privacy. The traditional online privacy concept has a better facelift under section 66F which not only prevents voyeurism, but also goes to prevent morphing of individual’s photographs for pornographic purposes. The new Act how ever has preserved section 72 in order to protect privacy of personal records from the perpetrators who may dare to disclose the information without the consent of the individuals. The law has taken utmost care to prevent online sexual abuse of women. There are three provisions dealing with obscenity (section 67), sexually explicit material (section67A) and child pornography (section 67B). Critics may say these provisions are just safeguards to prevent and protect indecency in the internet. But I feel these provisions, by punishing transmitting or publishing obscene material, sexually explicit material and child pornography, could stop sexual abuse of women users of the internet. The new law further makes it easy to nab the perpetrator with very strong wordings in chapter IV under the title “attribution, acknowledgment and dispatch of electronic records”. Sections 11, 12 and 13 of the act speak about attribution, acknowledgement and dispatch of electronic records respectively. This is again for the legal necessities for fulfilling of contract purpose. But at the same time, the chapter has made it easy for the harassed or abused justice seeker to prove her allegations.

At last there are list of do’s and don’ts which can help for self prevention. Like don’t ever put too much personal details on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, or other social networking as it might get misused. Always make two kinds of online presence: a professional presence for your colleagues and client and a private presence meant for socializing. The presence should be with some online identity that consists of a dummy profile photo and details. Do not reveal mother’s name or your personal tastes, distastes, hobbies, which can be used to profile you and segregate you for targeted cybercrimes. Don’t ever post your personal memoirs like snaps, where you are partying, or where you are on vacation. This helps to further profile you. Ensure that your private moments or bedroom pictures are not on your computers, which are hooked to the Internet and specifically on computers, where you download torrents. While in hotel or in changing rooms of malls, ensure to check for a two way mirror. Ensure that your Webcam on computer is plugged out when not in use, and mobile phones with camera are kept in reverse direction. At the end it is rightly said that prevention is better than cure therefore one should prevent beforehand only from becoming the victims of such cyber crimes.

[1] UN SG-Ban Ki Moon, 8 March 2007

[2] Article 1 of The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993)

[3] The Cambridge English Dictionary

[4] Cyber criminology, CRC taylor and Francis Group ( edited by JaiShankar ),Chapter 20

[5] Cyber criminology, CRC taylor and Francis Group ( edited by JaiShankar ),Chapter 20

[6] http://www.dnaindia.com/lifestyle/report_cyberbullying-social-media-s-darker-side_1712080

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