By Atul Periwal.
Women play a key role in transformative cultural, environmental and social changes essential for sustainable development. Occupying a critical function, any mistreatment or subjugation of her reputation was seen as disrespectful, not just to her but to society as a whole. Yet the same doesn’t seem to be the case a few millenniums later.
Whereas the world is struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is evident that the expansion of the internet and the growing number of internet users have somewhere directly contributed to the increase in cyber space crime against women. Cyber crime is a criminal offence where the computer, computer network or networked device is being targeted or used as a tool to commit any offence. Cybercrime is often perpetrated but not always by cybercriminals or hackers who want to make money. Cybercrime can be carried out by individuals or organizations. If we speak about prosecuting these offenders, we have various cyber crime laws and even though they are backed by several other legislation, they do not have a clear mechanism to deal effectively with cybercrimes against women.
Cyber crimes against women: Classification
1. Harassment via E-mail – Harassment through email involves blackmailing, intimidating and persistent sending of anonymous identities of love letters or daily sending of humiliating mails.
2. Cyber stalking: Stalkers are encouraged by the privacy provided by the Internet. Criminals can be on the other side of the earth, or a neighbour next door, or a relative close by! It includes tracking the movements of a person over the Internet by posting messages on the victim’s frequently visited bulletin boards, attempting to enter the victim’s visited chat rooms, continuously inundating the perpetrator with emails, etc. The stalker aims to inflict emotional harm in general and has no clear motive for his communications.
3. Cyber pornography: It refers to sexually explicit material being circulated, made, edited, published or posted.
4. Cyber defamation: Also known as cyber smearing, can be understood as a deliberate violation of the right to ‘another person’s good name. ‘Cyber Defamation takes place with the aid of computers and/or the Internet. Because of its speedy existence, it is deemed more of a hazard.
5. Cyber grooming: Cyber grooming is when a person develops an online relationship with a new person and bribes or forces him/her into sexual acting.
6. Cyber bullying: A type of abuse or abuse caused by the use of electronic or communication devices such as computers, cell phones, laptops, etc.
Separation of some types of cyber crimes is very difficult because constituent acts involving one type can correlate with actions involving another type. However, the following guidelines are applicable when we address cybercrimes against women.
|Criminal Offence||Provision (India, UK, USA)|
|Harassment||– Section 354A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 – Harassment Act 1997 – The Civil Rights Act of 1964|
|Cyber Stalking||– Section 354D of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 – Harassment Act 1997 – Violence Against Women Act|
|Child pornography||– Section 67B of the Information Technology Act, 2000 – 2003 Communications Act – Section 2251 of Title 18 of the United States|
|Defamation||– Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 – Defamation Act 2013 – Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996|
|Cyber grooming||– Section 67B(c) of Information Technology Act, 2008 – s.15A of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 – 18 U.S.C. § 2422|
|Cyber bullying||– 354A and 354D of Indian Penal Code – Harassment Act 1997 –|
Did COVID-19 worsen the situation for women?
Cyber crime is more horrific and devastating for women than men according to a Pew Research Centre survey in the US. The increased prevalence of cybercrimes toward women is not an issue for a particular country. A study of more than 9000 German Internet users (between the ages of 10 and 15) revealed that women are particularly susceptible than men to cybercrimes such as online sexual harassment and cyber stalking. According to the survey, women between the ages of 18 and 24 experience cyber-harassment disproportionately. It is assumed that the average screen time has grown dramatically with work from home and being restricted to limited physical space. Besides, the CSC e-Governance Services observed an increase in internet services use from 2.7 TB (March 10) to 4.7 TB (March 30) respectively.
– Encourage women to consider cyber security as a discipline, and our school system will deliver the educational process from middle school at least.
– Conducting qualitative and quantitative research to recognize victims’ issues and recommend suitable solutions.
– Formulation and enforcement of a policy to avoid the exposure of the identity of the victims in these cases.
– Give them the experience: hire a female intern.
– Scholarships and role models for women in this field.
– Render constructive discrimination by consciously hiring.
– Leverage the role models of women leaders and those coming into cyber security today.