Let us make cyberspace safe for women

    Looking at the present world one can easily experience the dominance of the internet in our daily lives. Cellphone subscribers are estimated to be 4.78 billion (62% of world population) and internet users are estimated to be 4.54 billion (59% of the world population) in 2020. India has over 560 million internet users. By 2021 it will be over 600 million. Surveys depicted that the world wide web is gaining popularity among Indian women. According to mobile gender gap report by GSMA, a trade body that represents the interest of mobile network operators worldwide, over 40% of Indian women were aware of mobile internet in 2019 as compared to just 19% a year ago. Some investigations show that around 60% of websites are sexual in substance too. The Internet has seen a forceful development. Alongside advantages, it represents a threat to women’s security. Cyber crime against women these days are on the rise involving images, taken with the aim of morphing, revenge porn and sextortion.

    Cyber crime is a term for any illegal activity that uses a computer as its primary means of commission. It is an offence that is 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 the Internet. It is doubtless that no matter where we are living in different corners of the world, the internet enables easy and quick communication with our friends and relatives. It is widely accepted that people find their lost friends after decades through social media platforms using the internet. Some make N” number of new friends through these social media like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, etc. Sometimes fall prey to the disgusting online behavior of some strangers who became friends through these social medias. Usually women and children are such prey in cyber crimes. Cyber stalking, Defamation, Morphing, Cyber pornography, Trolling are different types of cyber crimes. These cyber crimes cause mental pressure to the victims which finally turn into depression and anxiety. According to the National crime bureau 2017, cyber crime against women and children is high in the state of Maharashtra. Around 1,146 cases were reported. Though most websites and social media platforms give security tips to the well-being of women on the net, cyber crimes against women are on rise. Women are more vulnerable to the danger of cyber crime as the perpetrator’s identity remains anonymous and he may constantly threaten and blackmail the victim with different names and identity.

    Most of the men who wanted to become friends with a strange woman on social media platforms started the conversation by giving initial “innocent” compliments on their beauty or asking whether they had lunch or dinner etc. Many appreciate them by words like “sexy”, “attractive”, “pretty”, etc. The perpetrators watch whether the women on the other side are entertaining or not. If it is so, then they gradually bring their female companions into confidence by talking about their personal matters. After building a solid bond little by little they started to send lewd comments related to one’s physical status. In such situations when the woman shies away, the person who is sending such messages would turn out steadily to proceed. It is more advisable to ignore the abuse and the abuser but one needs to understand one’s rights and act accordingly. Sometimes it becomes more complicated when the victimized lady without even a moment’s pause report back or giving warning to the abuser about taking solid actions. Some men send obscene photographs, images and videos to the women even though they strictly communicate the discomfort to the sender. In such cases most of the women blocked such contacts to avoid further annoyance.

    However, this attitude leads the perpetrators to escape and at the same time they find some other victims in the cyber world for their voyeuristic pleasures. The perpetrators are targeting the woman and children more because they are unaware about the procedures of filing a complaint. Women in India are not yet prepared to report a cyber abuse or crime . This is due to hesitancy, shyness, fear of defamation, self-guilt, victim blaming, lack of family support and lack of knowledge about cyber laws. Most social networking sites have mechanisms to report the abuse. For example, Facebook has a mechanism for the users to report abuse, whether it is for harassment on chat or if abusive comments are being posted on the wall or if any content is considered inapt.

    The Government of India has taken some stringent measures to prevent cyber crime against women and children. The Information Technology Act, 2000 has provisions to deal with cyber crime against women and children. Sections 66E, 67, and 67A of the Act provides for the punishment and fine for voyeurism, publishing or transmitting obscene/sexually-explicit material in electronic form. Further, sections 354A and 354D of Indian Penal Code provides punishment for cyber bullying and cyber stalking. Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has launched a portal www.cybercrime.gov.in for public to report complaints of child pornography and sexually abusive explicit content. MHA has issued an Advisory on 4.1.2012 on Preventing & combating Cyber Crime against Women and Children, wherein it was advised to States/Union Territories to specifically combat the crimes in forms of cyber stalking, cyber bullying, child pornography and exposure to sexually explicit material etc. Despite of all these cyber crimes against women are increasing day by day. Today women cannot avoid the digital world. It is their needs and rights to use social media platforms. Hence it is time to empower them legally, socially and mentally to raise voice against cyber crimes.

    Solutions to prevent cyber crime against women

     Training should provide for women which consists of the Do’s & Don’t in the digital world, Idea about Cyber law, Digital Etiquettes, E-safety & Security, procedures of registering a complaint in Cyber cell, safe use of mobile phones, computers & internet.

    1. Awareness campaign must be set up in schools, colleges and work places about cyber crimes like stalking, hacking, online financial cheating, abuse in social networking websites, cyber pornography, virtual rapes, cyber-flashing, cyber bullying, cyber sexual harassment etc. Invite Experts, Police, Lawyers, and NGOs in those campaigns to talk about the same.
    3.  Workshops and Seminars must be directed for the police personnel to take quick actions in cyber crimes
    1. Cyber laws have to be formulated properly
    5.  Check account regularly in order to avoid hacking and stalking
    6.  Understand privacy settings of social network and other online substance
    1. File PIL (Public Interest Litigation) which help a check on government, statutory & public bodies about the policies and procedures that violate human rights or equality standards.