Female Abuse through and on Social Networking Sites

Female Abuse through and on Social Networking Sites

“The scars from mental cruelty can be as deep and long-lasting as wounds from punches or slaps but are more often not as obvious.”- Lundy Bancroft

Today the internet has become the part and parcel of our daily lives. From buying groceries and medicines to connecting to millions of people across the globe through social networking sites, everything is just a click away. The Right to the Internet is guaranteed as a fundamental right by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India under Article 19 of the Constitution of India in consonance with the United Nations recommendations[1]. But people in our country misuse the power of internet and most of the times the women community become its underlying victims.

There is no other under-emphasized reality that female abuse over the social networking sites across the globe has grown manifolds. However, it is overlooked or it goes unreported which is the primary concern around the world today.

PEN America defines online abuse as “the pervasive or severe targeting of an individual or a group online through harmful behavior[2] At present, the proportion of males and females using the internet is 60:40, yet there are considerably more reports of female harassment.

It is an open secret that since time immemorial, women and young girls in our country are often preached at length for always being overcautious and docile. Even in the 21st century, it is still prevalent. A woman or a lassie is asked to be more heedful and vigilant for anything and everything she does, either it is something online or offline; for something as trivial as taking selfies, or for posting the same on her social media accounts.

Come what may, or how watchful women are, they still become the victims of online bullying and threats. According to researches, 15% of teenage girls encounter at least four different kinds of abusive behavior online compared to the 6% of the boys. The abusive behavior is not only limited to the virtual world, but 1 in every 4 girls experience harassment through stalking, or sexual remarks in their schools, colleges, workplaces, public places, etc[3]. As reported by the United Nations, about 35% of the world’s women are the sufferers of some of the other sorts of violence. Moreover, what is more, awful is that more or less 60% of the women worldwide face threats on social media which goes unnoticed[4].

Various forms of Cyber Crimes against Women

1. Cyber Stalking: It is one of the most common cyber crimes against women nowadays. It entails enigmatically gathering personal information of any person without their prior consent and use it to harass, torture, or intimidate the victim. 

In the case of Saddam Hussain v. State of M. P [5], the offender had sexually abused the victim and had videotaped it. In the longer run, he started threatening and blackmailing the victim using those videos. He was sentenced under § 354 D of the Indian Penal Code[6] read with § 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000[7]. Moreover, here the Supreme Court refused to stop the further proceedings of the case after an understanding betwixt the parties stating that a mere act of personal compromise cannot thwart the proceedings of the crime that has been committed against the public at large.

2. Non- Consensual photography or Revenge Porn: 95% of the victims of non-consensual cyber pornography are the womenkind. More often than not, in such circumstances, the intimate or the personal pictures of the victim are publicized without her consent. It generally happens to avenge the women by the male partner they were in a relationship with.

According to the NCRB Crime in India Report 2017, 6.2% of the 4242 cybercrimes cases reported were categorized under cyber pornography, hosting, or publishing obscene and sexual materials[8].

The case of State of West Bengal v. Animesh Boxi [9], is said to be the first case of conviction of the first revenge porn case in India. The victim and the defendant were in a relationship, taking advantage of which, the defendant managed to get hold of some private photographs. Later in time, he started blackmailing the victim with them and posted it online to seek revenge for ending their relationship. The offender was charged under § 66E, 67, 67A of the Information Technology Act, 200 along with §354, 354A, 354C, and 509 of the Indian Penal Code[10].

3. Gender-based Slurs, Harassment, and Hate Speech: It is no surprise that women are subjected to several cuss words and profanities by preparators at the drop of a hat.

4. Morphing: Morphing encompasses smoothly improvising or editing the real picture by using computer techniques that harm the reputation of the victim.

The provisions included in our Indian Legal System for tackling and curbing cybercrimes are § 292 of the IPC which deals with “obscenity”, §507 of IPC deals with the punishment of the offender who tries to threaten and intimidate the victim anonymously. §509 of IPC is regarding the modesty of a woman, and §354C and §354D addresses the issues of “voyeurism” and stalking respectively[11]. Also, §66E of the IT Act deals with the violation of privacy, §67A and §67B of the IT Act deals with the punishment for publishing or transmitting material containing sexually explicit act or depicting children in the sexually explicit act, etc. in electronic form in particular[12].

Conclusion

For Women, harassment or molestation eternize stereotype, sexual objectification, and violence that breaks and disrupts their mental health. It causes them emotional and psychological breakdown that, in turn, causes them health issues such as depression and anxiety. It not only hampers their mental health but also questions their physical safety as well as the safety of their family members. Other primary concerns include the neighbors or the employers finding out about the incident of being subjected to harassment. This adversely affects the work opportunities of the victim. Above all, there is always a constant fear of society degrading, demeaning, and questioning the character of the women which is so ironic! The harassers and the stalkers take undue advantage of the existing societal tolerance of the women.

With all this existing hostility towards women in our society, the expanding concern of cybercrime creates an added barrier and adds to their mental agony. Many women, approximately 20% of the women using the social media platforms are compelled to close their accounts due to the online violence[13].

It is praiseworthy that there are so many provisions in our country about the abuse of women. But, the social stigma, dishonor, and shame that the women face even without her fault are still widespread which is worrisome. We as a society need to stand with the victim rather than finding fault in the individual. The most pressing need of the hour is to have more stringent laws and punishments with effective cybercrime prevention and security on social networking sites.

On the flip side, it is not only the victim who is in distress, but also her family members and friends who live through the affliction, and one day any one of us, our family, or our friends could be the victim.

So, let’s come together in solidarity, stand up for what is right and fight evil.

                                                                                                                       


[1] Prabhas K Dutta, Internet Access a Fundamental Right, Supreme Court Makes It Official: Article 19 Explained, India Today, (Feb. 03, 2021, 1:00 PM), https://www.indiatoday.in/news-analysis/story/internet-access-fundamental-right-supreme-court-makes-it-official-article-19-explained-1635662-2020-01-10.

[2] Anonymous, Online Harassment Field Manual, Pen America (Feb. 03, 2021, 4:30 PM), https://onlineharassmentfieldmanual.pen.org/defining-online-harassment-a-glossary-of-terms/.

[3] Anonymous, WMC Speech Project, Women’s Media Centre, (Feb. 03, 2021, 3:40 PM), https://www.womensmediacenter.com/speech-project/research-statistics.

[4] DNA Web Team, DNA Special: Cybercrime against women at its peak, close to 60 percent women victims of online abuse, DNA, (Feb. 03, 2021, 2:15 PM), https://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-dna-special-cybercrime-against-women-at-its-peak-close-to-60-percent-women-a-victim-of-online-abuse-2847984.

[5] Saddam Hussain v. State of M.P., [2016] SCC MP 1471. See also, Yogesh Prabhu v. the State of Maharashtra, 2006 (3) MhLj 691.

[6] The Indian Penal Code 1860 § 354 D.

[7] The Information Technology Act 2000 § 66 A.

[8] National Crime Records Bureau, Crime in India, Ch 14.

[9] State of West Bengal v. Animesh Boxi, GR: 1587/2017.

[10] Shreyaa Mohanty, Cyber Crimes Against Women: What do the Indian Laws Say? Pro Bono India, (Feb. 03,2021, 5:35 PM), https://www.probono-india.in/blog-detail.php?id=118.

[11] The Indian Penal Code 1860 § 292, §354C, §354D, §507, §509.

[12] The Information Technology Act 2000 §66E, §67A, §67B.

[13] DNA Web Team, DNA Special: Cybercrime against women at its peak, close to 60 percent women victims of online abuse, DNA, (Feb. 03, 2021, 2:15 PM), https://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-dna-special-cybercrime-against-women-at-its-peak-close-to-60-percent-women-a-victim-of-online-abuse-2847984.

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2 thoughts on “Female Abuse through and on Social Networking Sites”

  1. Madhuri Mishra says:

    This is so true. Every sentence defines the truth of today’s lives. She lived to write on such a burning topic.

  2. Sandeep Satpathy says:

    Thanks for sharing such valuable, important awareness.

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