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Virtual Rape By The Avatars In Metaverse: Potential Legal Issues And Remedies

The metaverse is a virtual space where humans, disregarding any geographical barriers, can interact with each other and represent themselves through their customized avatars. It can be asserted that it is a parallel or unreal world existing alongside the real world. Author Neal Stephenson originally used the term "metaverse" in his 1992 book "Snow Crash".1 The metaverse was first revealed and widely embraced through digital gaming. Online multiplayer games like Roblox, Fortnite, Avakin Life, and Minecraft have allowed users to interact with each other through avatars, laying the groundwork for the metaverse.

It is a concept of teleporting a human into the virtual space (i.e., a game metaverse), where a person experiences real-life sensations of a video game. For a player to establish a neurological connection between their brain and the virtual reality gadget, a disc interface has to be attached to their temple.2

The mind is then carried into the metaverse, where the players assume the role of an avatar, causing the body to briefly convulse in response to stimuli from the metaverse. Whether emotions created by one avatar for another in the metaverse would transfer to actual sentiments if the people behind their avatars crossing paths in real life was one of the film's central questions.3

The Concept Of Avatar In The Metaverse:

Avatars are a digital representation of you that enables you to freely display your identity, personality and looks. People can customize their avatars accordingly. A highly futuristic avatar would likely eliminate physical gadgets to generate virtual and augmented reality experiences. Neural link technology enables brain impulses to control external devices via an implanted chip.4

This involves utilizing one's brain to operate an external gadget. For the avatar's activities to impact humans, the chip must receive and interpret signals from the metaverse before transmitting them to the brain.5 Here, the legal scenario when the users communicate via their avatars, there could be instances where an altercation arises that, if it happened between persons in the real world, would be considered illegal.

Harms An Avatar Could Cause In Metaverse:

Real crimes are those that take place solely in the real world. Every state has civil laws that outline property rights as well as criminal laws that forbid violating these rights and specify the penalties for doing so.6 Sanctions encompass deterrence, rehabilitation, incapacitation, and vengeance. In the metaverse, not all types of crimes that have been identified in the real world should be prosecuted because they do not cause any physical harm, and it is anticipated that psychological and emotional damages are anticipated to be the most prevalent kind of harm in the metaverse.

For instance, voluntary intoxication in the bar and leading to harassment of the avatar can cause physical as well as mental harm in the real world, but in the metaverse, it may only be prosecuted for mental harm.7 As in the given present case, where Sofia along with her family playing YouVersion against a set of unknown players and later group approached and sexually abused her avatar, this might not lead to physical harm to Sofia, but it led to emotional damage and she felt that she through her avatar was gang raped.

Legal Rights Of Avatar In The Metaverse:

Protecting the legal rights of avatars in the metaverse is quite challenging due to inadequate laws present, and it necessitates a multifaceted solution. First, clear norms and regulations must be established inside metaverse platforms to specify acceptable conduct and provide systems for reporting and resolving infractions. Here, the most significant challenge would be in applying current legal conceptions to enforce accountability and safeguard rights.

As in the present case, there no physical commission of rape has been committed. If the same scenario is been observed in the real world where gang rape, harassment, outraged the modesty of a woman had been committed, then the case is brought before the court of law. As the metaverse develops determining the jurisdiction is ambiguous and there may be a need for international law of the metaverse.

Legal frameworks must be designed to address possible breaches of privacy and consent. This might include granting a separate legal personality to avatars, making them accountable for their acts in the metaverse.8 If avatars in virtual spaces may operate independently of humans, then avatars in the metaverse are completely autonomous entities. If avatars can conduct transactions in the metaverse, they should be granted rights and obligations leading to the rights to use or be sued.

A new metaverse law covering copyright, harassment, rape, murder, and other topics could be developed and ratified by an International community without country-specific boundaries.9 Companies may serve as a paradigm for granting rights to avatars in a metaverse. Avatars, like corporations, are non-human entities that may drive economic investment in the marketplace. To enhance productivity, avatars should have the same rights and obligations as enterprises.10

Virtual Rape & The Legal System:

Recently, a similar case to the present case has been filed in the United Kingdom, where a young girl under the age of sixteen was sexually assaulted by a group of adult men in an immersive video game. Significant psychological trauma similar to that which would have resulted from a physical assault is said to have been caused by that encounter. This emphasizes a key feature of virtual reality technologies: its immersive design, which creates a very lifelike virtual environment for users to experience. It is important to acknowledge the profound psychological effects of virtual experiences, particularly those that entail violent or traumatic incidents.11

Coming up to the applicability of the present laws in this particular scenario, the United Kingdom came up with the Online Safety Act OF 2023, a positive step forward, but it is only the beginning. Designing rules that safeguard users in virtual environments, requires a multidisciplinary strategy that includes legislators, tech companies, psychologists, and civil society.

They evaluated a "virtual rape" offense, the fundamental question that arose is whether the criminal and the victim must physically contact. This problem would arise if the victim claimed sexual assault by penetration or sexual assault Despite considerable technological advances in virtual reality software, it cannot be legally claimed that anybody is physically touching in the metaverse. It is extremely doubtful that laws defining sexual offenses could be applied in their literal sense to situations where the relevant behavior is claimed to have happened in a virtual context.12

In the context of India, The Indian Penal Code and the Information Technology Act are two pieces of current legislation that address online harassment to some extent. Sexual harassment in virtual rape can be deemed a criminal offense committed using a very specialized electronic medium, i.e., virtual rape, and so is a subset of online harassment that can be prosecuted under the IPC and IT Act. Though the IPC does not specifically criminalize internet harassment against women, it does prohibit it under Sections 354D and 509, which deal with stalking and insulting a woman's modesty, respectively.13

Since the IT Act 2000 is specialized legislation pertaining to technology and electronic communication, offenses committed in virtual reality may fall under its jurisdiction. With respect to the instant case, Section 66E addresses invasions of privacy by sending, capturing, and publishing images of people's intimate areas. This area can be used by victims of privacy abuses to seek protection, as the metaverse operates on the same principle as any other communication medium: the exchange of information and data by linking individuals worldwide.

In the case of State of West Bengal v. Animesh Boxi, the court found that in addition to being stalked online, the victim also experienced "virtual rape" each time a user of the accused's publicly accessible global website watched the video that was uploaded. The accused was found guilty under several sections of the IPC and IT Act. The severity of the problem and the requirement for an appropriate sentence were emphasized by the court.14

The court cited US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's statement that "science should expect to find a warm welcome, perhaps a permanent home, in our courtrooms in this age of science."15 Our choices ought to be based on accurate scientific and technological knowledge so that the legal system can address the requirements of the general population. Therefore, they stated that there is a need for the enactment of new laws to keep pace with technology.

The Necessity Of Enacting New Laws:

Many legal scholars and experts have asserted that there is a need to implement new laws to protect the rights of avatars in the metaverse. The legal rules regulating the metaverse, a fast- developing digital domain, are still relatively new. The particular difficulties presented by the metaverse might not be adequately addressed by existing laws. Since the metaverse seeks to transcend national boundaries, a single crime may have an impact on several countries, creating challenges for investigators in terms of standards and technology.

Even in the present case of the unknown group who had sexually abused Sofia, if the accused are from different countries, having different laws. It would be inconsistent with the idea of a decentralized, democratic government structure for the metaverse to provide all regulatory authority to a select few. This would lead to enforcing International laws that are to be ratified by the states.

Furthermore, it is already common for criminals to exploit avatars in order to help them create fraudulent accounts and move money unlawfully. Crimes against the avatars, such as harassment, rape, stalking, in-game scams, cheating, and impersonating a real person, have taken place.16 Crimes against the state, such as distributing illegal information or upsetting public peace and order, will also be prosecuted in state courts. But as of right now, neither state nor federal laws specifically address the metaverse. Game creators generally use a hierarchy of in-game sanctions, starting with a warning and progressing to account deletion. Closing and reporting an account, might have major consequences, including losing any virtual assets.

Virtual reality's next frontier, the metaverse, is a quickly developing digital environment that might fundamentally change how people interact with digital material and with one another. The interaction of avatars in the metaverse led to the implementation of legal rules and regulations. It highlights that, although it's not a perfect solution, the corporation's legal framework may be one of the many laws mentioned to address the problem of avatar rights and responsibilities in the metaverse.

This would begin the process of identifying and addressing the many rights and associated liabilities that an avatar may have in the metaverse by incorporating it and giving it an independent legal personality of the same quality as the corporate veil in company law.17 With a new era of digital contact approaching, the example of virtual rape in the metaverse serves as a sobering warning of the risks that may be present in these unexplored areas. To control the codes upon which the Metaverse will be built, the law must become more robust. In short, the law will completely supersede the ideas that underpin Metaverse.

  1. Matthew Sparkes, "What is a metaverse" (2021) 251 New Scientist, 3348, p 18.
  2. Jon Christian, "Elon Musk Compares Neuralink to a Black Mirror Episode" (20 August 2020) Futurism
  3. Hannah Shaw Williams, "Black Mirror Season 5: Striking Vipers Ending Explained" Screenrant (7 June 2019)
  4. Anne McKinnon, "These Technologies are bringing us into the Metaverse" (31 March 2020) The Boolean
  5. Richard Chang, "Elon Musk's Neural link shows monkey with brain-chip playing videogame by thinking" (10 April 2021) Reuters
  6. Ben Chester Cheong, "Avatars in the metaverse: potential legal issues and remedies" (2022), Int. Cybersecur. Law Rev. (2022) 3: 467–494,
  7. Susan Brenner, "Fantasy Crime: The Role of Criminal Law in Virtual Worlds" (2008) 11(1) Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law 1, 61–70.
  8. S. M. Solaiman, "Legal personality of robots, corporations, idols, and chimpanzees: a quest for legitimacy" (2017) 25 (2) Artificial Intelligence and Law 155–179.
  9. Marc Andrew Spooner, "Comment, It's Not a Game Anymore, Or Is It?: Virtual Worlds, Virtual Lives, and the Modern (Mis)Statement of the Virtual Law Imperative" (2012) 10(2) University of St. Thomas Law Journal 533–578.
  10. Tiffany Day, "Avatar Rights in a Constitutionless World" (2009) 32(1) Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal 137, 150.
  11. Alice Trotter and Nicola Finnerty, "Policing the metaverse: the reality of virtual sexual offenses", 2024,,Kingsley Napley.
  12. Alice Trotter and Nicola Finnerty, "Policing the metaverse: the reality of virtual sexual offenses", 2024,,Kingsley Napley.
  13. Harsh Agrawal and Rashi Jain, 'Expounding the Contours of Sexual Harassment in Virtual Reality: Applicability of the Penal Laws to State-of-the-Art Technology (Part 2)' (The RMLNLU Law Review Blog, 24 May 2022)
  14. Adil Abbas, "Cyber Crime against Women", International Journal of Research Publication and Reviews, Vol. 4, no. 4, pp 2998-3003, April 2023.
  15. Harsh Agrawal and Rashi Jain, 'Expounding the Contours of Sexual Harassment in Virtual Reality: Applicability of the Penal Laws to State-of-the-Art Technology (Part 2)' (The RMLNLU Law Review Blog, 24 May 2022)
  16. Susan Brenner, "Fantasy Crime: The Role of Criminal Law in Virtual Worlds" (2008) 11(1) Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law 1, 27.
  17. Ben Chester Cheong, "Avatars in the metaverse: potential legal issues and remedies" (2022), Int. Cybersecur. Law Rev. (2022) 3: 467–494,
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