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Female Abuse Through Social Networking Sites: A Critical Analysis Of It Act 2000

Introduction To Online Violence Against Women In India

With the passage of time, internet has become a major part of lifestyle. From using social networking sites for updating about life events to connecting people across the globe with a use of single click, internet has become a cornerstone of humans. Right to internet has been recognized as fundamental right by Hon'ble Supreme Court under article 19 of the constitution to bring it parallel with United Nations recommendations.[1]

As per statistics, there are about 250 million active users in India in 2019.[2] Major social networking sites include WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Snapchat.However, as per a study, it was found that in urban areas, the ratio of internet users male as compared to female is 60:40. Whereas, the data collected for a survey reflects a steep biasness towards males in rural area.[3] This mirrors the drastic difference in gender.

From the advent of cyberspace, the rate of crime against women has increased by many folds. The crime rate of our country is reflecting our patriarchy in which Maneka Gandhi, then Indian Minister for Women and Child Development stated that trolling of women and online abuse need to treated as a crime which have occurred in a real world.[4]. In the month of June, National Commission of Women received 2,043 complaints.[5]

There is the vast difference in gender internet users contributes to increasing cyber-crime at alarming rateUnder this project we would highlight the kinds of online crime against women and provisions under Information Technology Act, 2000.

Information Technology Act 2000 has its genesis from United Nations Model Law on Electronic Commerce. The objective of the act was to deal with e-commerce initiatives and infrastructure. It does not deal with cybercrime against individual person. There are two exclusive features i.e. the offender can be from any part of the globe and anonymous nature on nature.

This paves ways for people to hide behind the curtains to cover the crime. It majorly include Section 66(a), Section 66A ,Section 72, Section 72 (a) .IT amendment Act 2008 along with Criminal law amendment 2013 contributes to confusion as the victims can approach under both legislatures.

Various Forms Of Crimes Against Women

  1. Cyber Stalking
    One of the most common cyber crime nowadays against women is Cyber stalking which includes following someone silently or tracking someone's activities in an online or offline mode for gathering knowledge or personal information of other person without their consent. Stalking means intrusion in person's privacy in order to terrorizes, harass, torture or to intimidate the victim. The offender tries to contact the victim and forms a relationship without his or her consent. This term is mainly defined under section 354D of the Indian Penal Code. It provides for the punishment of stalking which further includes cyber stalking .It states that any man who intentionally follows any woman and contacts her or try to contact her for personal information after several warnings by that woman with clear intention to stop that person from taking such steps will be accused of this offence.

    It will include cyber crime when such actions are done purposefully through internet, email or by any other electronic form of communication which includes cracking or hacking any password for the same purpose or someone uses identity of the woman for the same. In many incidents, devices of victims are hacked in order to obtain private content on any electronic device which is later used to blackmail them or to keep a check on them. In some case, mobile phones are hacked to destroy the evidence against the offender.

    It all includes imprisonment up to three years and fine when it is committed for the first time. And it can increase up to five years of imprisonment and fine when done on a subsequent basis.

    Further it includes provisions like:
    • Section 292 of IPC includes “obscenity”. The offence of cyber stalking includes the act of sending obscene things to the victim via internet by using social networking site or any other mode which is also mentioned under Section 67 of Information Technology Act, 2000
    • Section 507 of IPC defines “criminal intimidation by anonymous communication.” It states that whenever the stalker tries to threat the victim by not revealing his true identity will amount to punishment by law
    • Section 509 of IPC is in regard with the modesty of woman. If any stalker under any circumstances try to intrude into the privacy of the woman's life through any conduct or gesture or by sending emails or messages via other online mode would be chargeable under this.
    • Section 67A of Information Technology Act, 2000 includes the word “sexually explicit” if matters related to this are sent to the victim via electronic media will amount to punishment under the law.
    • Section 67B of Information Technology Act, 2000 includes all these crimes when done to a person below 18 years of age and would be liable in a similar manner.
    • Section 66E of Information Technology Act, 2000 and Section 354C of Indian Penal Code defines “voyeurism.” It states that any person, who intentionally captures, publishes and communicates the picture of the private parts of the woman without her consent will be liable for punishment.[6]

      The first case cyber stalking against a woman was discovered in Maharashtra which happened in July 2015 in the case of Yogesh Prabhu v. State of Maharashtra. In this case the woman chatted with this person and when he proposed her for marriage, she turned it down and stopped talking to him. She also removed him from her friend list . However he continued to stalk her and kept knowledge of her whereabouts.

      Months later, he started sending her obscene videos and photographs via email from an anonymous ID. She later filed a complaint to the police and the Cyber Crime Investigation Cell started investigation on the same. Later prabhu was charged under sections 509 IPC and S. 66E of the Information Technology Act, 2008 as section 354 D was enacted in 2013 and was not allowed to apply retrospectively to a crime of 2009[7].
       
  2. Cyber pornography
    It is a conduct of creating, publishing, communicating pornographic materials by using the cyber space. Earlier this law was governed under section 292 of IPC which dealt with the crime of obscenity and included anything which is lascivious or is appealing to the voyeuristic interests or is intended to degrade and corrupt people.

    Hence, now this section includes the sell, distribution, communication, publically displaying or earning any profits from such business and makes it a crime which is punishable under law . It is punishable with five years of imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 5000. Also, Section . 354A of the IPC includes sexual harassment and states that any man who intentionally pornographic material to a woman without her will by sending it through Whatsapp, email or any other mode is punishable under law. Section 67A of the IT Act further prevents such act where such materials are distributed or published in any electronic form which are sexually explicit conduct or treats such conducts .

    The punishment under provisions of IT act includes imprisonment up to 5 years and a fine which can exceed up to 10 lakhs in case of first conviction and imprisonment of 7 years and a fine up to 10 lakhs in case of subsequent conviction.

    In the case of SuhasKatti v. State of Tamil Nadu, the woman who was a divorcee, filed a complaint that a man is sending her obscene, infuriating and defamatory messages in a Yahoo message group. It happened after she did not accept his marriage proposal. Therefore, the man created a fake email account by the name of the woman and forwarded emails that were received in that account. Further various phone calls were received by her by the people who alleged that she was a sex worker.

    Hence, Katti was punished with two years of rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs. 500 under section . 469 IPC (forgery in the case of harming reputation), one year of imprisonment and fine of Rs. 500 for offence under section 509 IPC (words, gestures or conduct done for the purpose of insulting the modesty of a woman) and two years' rigorous imprisonment and Rs. 4000 fine for offence under S. 67 of IT Act 2000(punishment for publishing or communicating obscene material in electronic form).
     
  3. Circulating images / video clips of women engaged in intimate acts
    As we know certain acts of prurient conduct which are especially pointed to intimate acts of women are increased in the modern times under IT Act, which provides for pictures and videos to be easily captured on a single click and can be communicated as widely as one can reach through porns and social networking sites via internet.

    These are mostly made and distributed without the consent or knowledge of the woman. This also includes violent assault on the woman's private parts by a man as one can see in other sexual crimes. It prevents a woman of maintaining body autonomy and sensing agency. Section 354C of the IPC states the crimes of voyeurism.

    Its punishment includes 1-3 years of imprisonment and fine in case of the first conviction, and 3-7 years of imprisonment including fine for subsequent convictions. Under IT act, S. 66E deals with such matter which include violating privacy by capturing, communicating or publishing such information without the consent.

    The most famous case relating to this type of act was the Delhi Public School MMS case of 2004, which included the making of MMS which involved pornographic video of two students in a sexual activity and it was distributed illegally as well as was auctioned on the eBay website.

    Later, the Chief Executive Officer of the website was prosecuted immediately. It can also include situations where victim consents for the videography but not for the distribution. This will also be covered under this section. In other cases, the videography takes place with the consent of the woman but when the relationship turns out to be bitter, the partner for the purpose of revenge or for the purpose of blackmailing, leaks that video in the public can further be included under this section.
     
  4. Morphing
    This includes improvising or editing the real picture by a fake or an unauthorized user by the way of creating fake profile and then downloading the victim's photograph from internet and then edits it in a manner which harms the original identity of the victims and posts it on the social networking sites or by any mode which can harm the reputation of the victim.It is now so common process that anyone can use such process for taking revenge or for fun purpose which dangers the modesty of the woman.

    It includes attaching the photograph of the victim to a photograph which have nudity or skimpy clothes of another woman by the use of such automated software which are available easily and can malign the image or the character of the victim easily in front of a larger public. Celebrities are the most common target of all the time for the sake of fun.

    These offences are covered under section. 43 (acts that include unauthorized downloading/copying/extracting and destroying/altering data) and S. 66 of the IT Act (computer-related offences). Also, the accused can be charged under various sections of the IPC such as sexual harassment under S. 354A, public nuisance under S. 290, obscenity under S. 292A and S. 501 for defamation.
     
  5. Sending Obscene / Defamatory / Annoying Messages
    Under this head, acts included are such as circulating private pictures of a woman, posting her pictures with contact details on websites with obscene content amounts to cyber-crime against women. This also amounts to defamation as it affects the privacy of the women which is a fundamental right. Sending of obscene, annoying messages can be through whatsapp, mail or any other social media platform.

    In cases where the offence does not fall under the defined crime under Information Technology Act, the women generally takes recourse under Indian Penal Code in section 354A for sexual harassment, section 354 for outrage of women modesty, under section 499 for defamation and section 509 for insult the modesty of women.
     
  6. Online trolling / bullying / blackmailing / threat or intimidation
    The list of cyber-crime against women includes online trolling/bullying/ blackmailing/ threat or intimidation. This is most prevalent in recent times. Bullying means a repetitive behavior of a person against another with an intention to harm the reputation or demean the same with superior strength or dominant position. It is done by using mobile phones or computer with internet connection. In such situation, internet acts as more like a bane than boon.
     
As anonymous identity can be withhold by the person, therefore this provides with courage to do such acts. It is not surprising to note that India stands at third position after China and Singapore in cyber bullying.[8]Social Media platforms leaves no stone unturned when it comes to making memes are against either against a women or men. However, our patriarchy leads way to more women trolling as compared to men.

The word trolling is originated in 1992 and is often used in relation to internet. Trolling means a creation of discord on the internet by using abusive language, likely to quarrel or criticize other with inappropriate language with an intention to gain cheap publicity. A social media troll is a person who intentionally speaks something controversial and tries to get the attention of other user. The hunger for attention is so great in these cases that the troll often uses very vulgar language, abuses in their comments.

Many times these comments which were made often were unrelated to the topic.[9]Online trolling against women includes threats of acid attack, rapes and other form of grave hurt because a woman had raised her voice against the opinion of the mass. The recent case of threat which came in highlight was rape threat against Mahindra Singh Dhoni's daughter.[10]

This is not the only case and they are plethora of cases which comes on daily basis. However, generally the attitude of people in India is to neglect such acts and block the person until the matter goes out of hand. The issue is not only with the law but with the lack of morality in our citizens. Such cases are increasing with the speed of light. It is common occurrence in case of political issues.

Online complain mechanism on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are also not always effective tool for curb such activities. An action against troll can be brought under section 67 of The Information Technology Act 2000, if the posts amount to be offensive in nature on the internet. It is important to note that the language used in section is “whoever uses Lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or which may tend to deprave or corrupt persons. These words are extensive adequately to include any belligerent comment; even it may not be sexual in nature.

Conclusion And Suggestions
When an online cyber-crime has been committed, it does not only have adverse effect on victim but it also affect the surroundings of the victim because of friends, colleagues and media exaggerating the trauma. It has been felt during the research of this project that victim woman seldom gets required support from authorities and often, the incident having a potential of physical harm is not taken seriously. The concept of blocking' fails where the offenders have multiple accounts on a social networking site. Also, the current law regime does not reflect the ground actualities. Holistic and efficient approach is desired.

Social Media platforms need to strengthen the privacy policy of them in order to control the crime against marginalized sexuality or gender. As right to privacy is part of Article 21 of our Constitution, the social networking platforms need to take steps to meet the fundamental right. Networking Platforms can also employ local staff such as grievance officers based on the local languages and culture to ensure that the complaints reported by women are dealt on time.

There is a dire need of encouragement for women to come up when their rights are violated online. Further, the government needs to ensure effective working of Cyber Crime Prevention against Women and Children. Also, privacy of complainant needs to be protected. Implementation of provisions under IT law is not efficient to meet the requirement.

We, as a society is required to provide with an environment under which women can report the abuse to authorities without fear of being judged, insecure, losing their jobs and other.

End-Notes:
  1. Prabhash K Dutta, Internet Access a Fundamental Right, Supreme Court Makes it Official: Article 19 Explained, INDIA TODAY(Jan 10, 2020, 3:42 PM), https://www.indiatoday.in/news-analysis/story/internet-access-fundamental-right-supreme-court-makes-official-article-19-explained-1635662-2020-01-10
  2. SandhyaKeelery, Social Network Penetration India Q3 2019, STATISTA (Oct 16, 2020), https://www.statista.com/statistics/284436/india-social-network-penetration/
  3. Rishi Ranjan Kala, High Gender Disparity Among Internet User in India, FINANCIAL Express (Sep 27, 2019, 12:54 AM), https://www.financialexpress.com/industry/high-gender-disparity-among-internet-users-in-india/1718951/
  4. SunetraChoudhury, “Online Attacks on Women to be Treated as Violence: Maneka Gandhi to NDTV,” NDTV, May 18, 2016, http://bit.ly/1YAtGR4
  5. NCW received 2,043 Complaints of Crimes Against Women in June, Highest in 8 Months, THE HINDU (Jul 03, 2020, 12:40), https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/ncw-received-2043-complaints-of-crimes-against-women-in-june-highest-in-8-months/article31978603.ece
  6. Ms. Heena Keswani, CYBER STALKING: A CRITICAL STUDY ,2017 , http://docs.manupatra.in/newsline/articles/Upload/455C1055-C2B6-4839-82AC-5AB08CBA7489.pdf ( last visited, 9 November, 2020)
  7. Ms. Saumya Uma, OUTLAWING CYBER CRIMES AGAINST WOMEN IN INDIA, https://docs.manupatra.in/newsline/articles/Upload/CE3E0AE8-DE2B-41EA-92A2-8A46035DECEB.pdf( last visited, 9 November,2020)
  8. NamrataAgarwal,Women Soft Target of Cyber Bullying, Online Violence on Social Media, ZEE NEWS (Oct 7, 2020, 07:29 AM), https://zeenews.india.com/india/dna-exclusive-women-soft-target-of-cyberbullying-online-violence-on-social-media-2315338.html
  9. SalilShringarpure&JyotiDharam, Internet Trolling: Analyzing the Legal Myths and Facts, INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ENGENEERING AND ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY (May, 2019), https://www.ijeat.org/wp-content/uploads/papers/v8i5C/E12050585C19.pdf
  10. RishabhSuri,ZivaDhoni Gets Rape Threats For Dad MS Dhoni's Performance In A Cricket Match: Celeb Parents Slam It, Demand Strict Action, HINDUSTAN TIMES( Oct 13, 2020, 13:19), https://www.hindustantimes.com/bollywood/ziva-dhoni-gets-rape-threats-for-dad-ms-dhoni-s-performance-in-a-cricket-match-celeb-parents-slam-it-demand-strict-action/story-Hg5ZCppRCWAEHQygKzQBzO.html
Written By:
  1. Akshita Agrawal And
  2. Meha Dad

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