CyberCrime – A rising threat against women in Contemporary India
An essay on "CyberCrime – A rising threat against women in Contemporary India" by Arpita Sengupta focuses on the rising threat of cybercrime in India with the help of modern technology.
An essay on "CyberCrime – A rising threat against women in Contemporary India" by Arpita Sengupta focuses on the rising threat of cybercrime in India with the help of modern technology. It takes us to a deep analysis of the reasons behind the victimization of women in cyberspace. Over the past years, women have been victimized in cyberspace and it has become a major detrimental issue concerning the safety and security of women. Apart from the registered cybercrime cases, several cases remain unreported and we do not have data and report against them.
Technology is evolving every day, and to keep a vigilant check on cybercrimes, various legal provisions under different statutes have been enacted and passed by the government such as the Information Technology Act, 2000 , the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 (Section 354A to Section 354D) , the Indian Penal Code, 1860 to control cybercrimes and protect the victims. Lastly, the author concludes this essay with some effective recommendations along with the emphasis on the need for more stringent cyber laws in India like the cyber laws in western countries.
The active growth of internet has been one of the most crucial factors that have highly influenced human life across the globe. With the growth of this wireless communication in the world, people have easily adapted to the culture and lifestyle of using the internet at every pace of life. It is the greatest innovation in the field of communication and has created a virtual world called cyberspace having a plethora of opportunities to connect and communicate with people around the globe and share personal and professional relationships, thoughts, and ideas with no boundaries. It is a fact that it has become the fastest-growing infrastructure and the only fastest medium for sending and receiving information on any platform.
With the emerging technological advancements and opportunities, criminal activities in the virtual world have rapidly increased and posed a serious threat to the security, safety, and mental health of a person. The criminal activities carried out over the internet or facilitated with the help of tools such as computers or networks are technically termed as cybercrimes. The majority of the world population has access to the internet and social media platforms with women being the major group in terms of the internet user base. It is true that women are the most susceptible segments of the population to cybercrimes and are extremely victimized online. Moreover, there is less legal protection and laws against cybercrime cases in India, and in proportion to reported cases, only a few victims get justice. It stresses the need for strict cyber laws to protect and give justice to the victims.
Analysing the Situation and the reasons behind Victimization
Cybercrime has transformed into a global threat, and women are the easy target of this crime. Advancement in the world of the internet has led to a steep jump in cybercrimes where mostly women are the major victims. India has marked its growth in the world of technological advancement and its cyberspace is expanding faster. This growth has largely been seen during the COVID-19 outbreak and the imposed lockdown which made people more confined at home and further increased the dependency on the internet to access services and this, in turn, formed a habit of using the internet as a source of education, entertainment, and professional, and work purposes.
There was a mass migration from offline to online culture and work-from-home mode. In India, we have witnessed a sharp rise in cybercrime cases in the past years, but the lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic has surged the number of cases. According to Crime in India – Statistics volume II published by The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for the year 2020, the total number of registered cybercrime committed against women was 10,405 where Karnataka reported the highest number of cases . As per the data released by National Crime Records Bureau, the number of cybercrime against women has gone up by 28% since 2019 .
Apart from data analysis, cybercrime against women in India is still not considered a grave issue, and objectifying, defaming, morphing images, harassing women, and extorting money by blackmailing or blackmailing for fulfilling sexual needs over the internet have become common nowadays. Moreover, it has posed a serious challenge to the security and privacy of women and created a sense of fear of using the internet and social platforms. We can conclude that women are the real victims of cybercrimes in India.
Cyberspace is a boon and blessing to human civilization, but it is quite evident that cybercrimes have taken a serious toll since the COVID-19 pandemic in India, but there exist numerous reasons which have aggravated the situation and led to the rise in the number of cybercrime cases. With the advent of technological advancement and globalization, our lifestyle has completely changed. We now look for modern ways of living and follow the western culture. It has encouraged us to lead our lives in our way without being questioned for anything and made privacy one of the crucial rights in today's society. Also, the increasing workload and pressure have created distances from our close ones, and now it is hard to find time for anyone in this work race. It has created a major psychological and emotional impact on the lives of housewives, who are confined in their homes.
To overcome the loneliness, they find social networking sites as a tool to spend time and unknowingly indulge in chatting with strangers. Nowadays, it has become easy to make friends online. Often it is seen that lonely women easily fall into the trap of cybercrime. In addition, women mostly housewives have access to the internet but are less proficient in using advanced technology, which makes them unaware of the proper and actual usage of social networking sites. India is a patriarchal-dominated country, where the majority of the women are given less freedom, even they are not entitled to any rights in their own family, and are taught since childhood not to raise their voices against the wrongdoers.
It makes the image of the men more superior and dynamic compared to women as a result the women are often subjected to violence and humiliation. It gives the men ultimate power to do whatever they want in the virtual world with the women who are portrayed as inferior in every aspect, and immense courage to abuse, threaten, defame, sexually harass and blackmail over the internet, thinking that it would be a social embarrassment and humiliation for women to report this to the police or even share the problem with her family.
The majority of the victims do not prefer to report their cases of victimization because of a lack of courage, rejection by their own families, and the fear of being considered a social stigma by society. Even many of them are not aware that cybercrime is a crime and do not know what actions to initiate in case of witnessing a cybercrime or where to report the crime, and due to social embarrassment, they decide not to disclose the matter to anyone including their family members too. It is often seen that even family members discourage not to take any action against it due to the social embarrassment attached to it and solely blame them for the suffering. In this modern world, almost every person is suffering from tension, anxiety, and stress, and to get relief, they have started socializing more on social networking platforms where no physical existence is required.
The COVID-19 lockdown period has made us more reliant on the internet, since then, the number of internet users has grown rapidly, reporting about 718.74 million active internet users comprising 54.29% of the total population of India. Currently, as of March 2022, there are 824,890,000 million active users, comprising 58.6% of the population . With the increase in internet users, there is a rise in undue use of the internet for satisfying sexual needs and has made addiction and obsession for the sexual predators, in indulging in cybersex, cyber pornography, demanding sexual favours through threatening, blackmailing, and posting fake and objectionable images. All these have led to the massive exploitation and abuse of the power of the internet and have adversely damaged the mental peace of women.
Judicial Decisions taken against Cybercrime Cases
In India, the judiciary is considered themajor wing of the government that helps to interpret the laws, settle the disputes that come up in the courts, and deliver fair and equitable justice . As society is changing so are the crimes, and to understand the nature and gravity of a crime, the judicial authority needs to be updated with upcoming advancements in technology. The tremendous increase in the number of cybercrime cases has changed the ambit of the judiciary in cybercrime cases. Various judgments have been passed related to cybercrime cases, which has helped to change the perspective and has encouraged special training in laws relating to technology and computer networks, to be imparted to the judicial officers, prosecutors, and police officers, in delivering speedy judgments for the purpose of serving justice.
• Ritu Kohli case – It is the first cyber stalking case reported in India, where a person named Manish misused the identity of Ritu Kohli to chat over the internet by using her name, giving her address and phone number to unknown people in the chat, and encouraging them to call, and provoking by talking in a very obscene and obnoxious language at a website straight for four consecutive days. She got almost 40 calls in the first three days. It damaged her personal life to a great extent. Subsequently, she reported the entire matter to the police and the police further started their investigation and found the offender. Apparently, a case was registered under section 509 of IPC for outraging the modesty of Ritu Kohli .
• State of Tamil Nadu v. Suhas Kutti C No.4680 of 2004 – Under the Information Technology Act, 2000 this case was the first leading conviction case in India where the accused was convicted within 7 months after filing the FIR. In this case, the victim was a divorcee who had been constantly harassed by the accused who later was discovered as a family friend of the victim and was interested in marrying her. The accused created a fake profile of the victim with her name and posted her phone number on various other social media. The accused was charged under sections 469 and 509 of IPC and under section 67 of the IT Act, 2000.
Legal Framework for the Protection of Women against Cybercrime in India
1. The Information Technology Act, 2000 as amended by the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008
• Section 66A of the act – punishment for sending offensive messages through computer resources or a communication device
• Section 66B of the act – punishment for dishonestly receiving a stolen computer resource or communication device
• Section 66C of the act – punishment for dishonestly using electronic signatures, passwords, or any other unique identification nature
• Section 66D of the act – punishment for cheating by personation by using computer resource
• Section 66E of the act – punishing the offender for a violation of privacy
• Section 67 of the act – punishing the offender for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form
• Section 67A of the act – punishment for publishing or transmitting material containing sexually explicit acts or conduct in electronic form
2. Criminal Amendment Act, 2013 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
• Section 354A of the act – sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment
• Section 354C of the act – voyeurism
• Section 354D of the act – stalking
• Section 499 of the act – defamation
• Section 503 of the act – criminal intimidation
• Section 507 of the act – offences of criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication
• Section 509 of the act – any word, act, or gesture intended to insult the modesty of a woman
3. There is an act aimed at regulating and prohibiting the indecent portrayal of women in any form and that is the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986
• Section 3 deals with the prohibition of advertisements containing indecent representation of women
• Section 4 deals with the prohibition of publication or sending by post of books, pamphlets, paper, film, writing, or drawing containing indecent representation of women
Loopholes in the Information Technology Act, 2000
India was among such countries which implemented the IT Act, 2000 but it primarily focused on the protection of e-commerce and granting legal status to electronic transactions. However, the act has not been amended since 2008, and it contains loopholes that need to be addressed on an immediate basis. Every cybercrime infringes the right to privacy and due to the lack of privacy laws in India; the cybercriminal misuses the data on the internet. The IT Act does not have any provisions regarding the right to privacy, and the right to privacy can only be enforceable against state actions. In addition, section 66A of the IT Act, 2000 does not define the terms "offensive" and "menacing", and was struck down and held unconstitutional in the case Shreya Singhal v. Union of India by the Supreme Court .
The IT Amendment Act of 2008, has reduced the quantum of punishment, increased the penalties, and made cybercrime a cognizable offence, which can be considered a setback for the victims of cybercrimes. Due to the absence of stringent cyber laws, India has witnessed numerous cases of data breaches and even many large companies get access to perform kinds of experimental work that can create a negative impact on the economy. To make the IT Act more stringent, fast track amendment should be introduced, strict punishment for the cybercriminals should be imposed, more experienced cyber experts are needed, and privacy issues must be addressed.
Countless women in India are becoming victims of cybercrimes, and it is essential for every woman to take precautionary measures before exploring the world of the internet and social networking sites. It is the duty of all the women connected to the internet to protect their sensitive personal information by changing the privacy settings and limiting the number of viewers and not sharing passwords, intimate messages, information, pictures, or anything online, which carry the potential of destroying life. It is always advisable not to go for any meet-ups alone with any new online friend and if necessary always have a prior discussion regarding this with family, friends, or anyone who can give the best advice.
Furthermore, the policy guidelines of social networking sites must be strictly followed. If any woman is being harassed then first it is extremely important to come out of the fear of being socially stigmatized and then report to the NGOs, Cyber Crime Investigation Cell (CCIC), National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal (online), or can register a complaint to the police who can assist and guide regarding the actions to be taken against the cybercrimes. It is never too late to report a crime and it is equally important to raise your voice against cybercrimes so that no chance is given to the perpetrator to commit the same criminal activities online. Finally, it can be concluded that women should make online friends cautiously within certain limits and should only disclose information as much as needed to avoid the attraction of a pool of viewers.
After analysing the situation it cannot be denied that with the increasing crowd over the social platforms cybercrime has become a real threat and a challenge to security and is detrimental to the growth and development of the economy as a whole. The rapid growth of the internet and the spread of information on social media platforms have escalated several cybercrimes making women the main target group in society and their respect, privacy, dignity, social life, safety, mental peace, and security are being compromised, and harmed every moment. To combat the situation, the present cyber laws need to be reformed and stringent laws imposing severe punishment should be implemented.
Strong legislative measures must be taken by the government on educating women, regarding the existing cybercrimes and how to exercise legal rights if violated in such circumstances, and the appropriate ways regarding the proper use of the internet must be circulated among the general public to create awareness. Lastly, the legal system needs to be updated with the developments in the world of technology.
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