“Courage is fire and bullying is smoke.” - Benjamin Disraeli
Cybercrime, being a worldwide paradox, has become more frequent in today’s world with the advancement of technological instruments like ‘internet’. The progress which technology has now gained impersonates a major threat to the law under which we are governed. Although cybercrime poses menace to an individual as a whole, the most vulnerable are women and children. In a country like India, where the condition of women worsens like a coconut tree, where the society looks out on women, safety of women becomes a radical issue especially when law does not even perceive cybercrimes. The criminals use fake identity and effortlessly hide themselves in the pragmatic reality devised by technological advancements. “The existing criminal law seems to be ill equipped to deal with this up-gradation in methods and media of committing crime and thus cybercrime has become a reality in India, difficult to detect, seldom reported and even difficult to prove.”
Since the virtual world is more fascinating, individuals are more attracted to it which leads to cyber-crime. “Women, especially young girls inexperienced in the cyber world, who have been newly introduced to the internet and fail to understand the vices of the internet, are most susceptible to falling into the bait of cyber criminals & bullies.” There are still many sections of the society which considers women inferior to men and hence are not allowed to take education and thus, are easily indoctrinated in cyber bullying. The rising incidence of cyber-crime against women has culminated in a feeling of instability in women. The Parliament then realised the need to protect people and thus enacted its first cyberlaw, the Information Technology Act, 2000. “It provides the legal infrastructure for E-commerce in India and the Act received the assent of the President of India and has become the law of the land in India.” “The act aims to provide for the legal framework so that legal sanctity is accorded to all electronic records and other activities carried out by electronic means.” Although India was one of the countries to execute this act, it still mainly focused on safeguarding e-commerce and communications under IT Act and cyber bullying on women was not covered under this act, leaving this pressing risk untouched.
There are many loopholes in this act because it is basically not a cybersecurity law and consequently does not deal with cybersecurity. The Constitution of India guarantees the right to privacy to each and every citizen of India. Cybercrime embezzles an individual’s right to privacy and IT Act 2000 does not undertake any of the privacy matters. When the amendment of 2008 was done in the act, it reduced the punishment and increased the penalties assuming it to be beneficial but it is now proving like a “toothless tiger”. “The absence of strict data protection and privacy laws coupled with insipid, inconsequential penalties has made India a data-rich demographic for global heavyweights.”
In our country we have no law that camouflages cyberstalking. It is only marked under Section 72 of IT Act 2000 which states that “if any person who, in pursuance of any of the powers conferred under this Act, rules or regulations made thereunder, has secured access to any electronic record, book, register, correspondence, information, document or other material without the consent of the person concerned discloses such electronic record, book, register, correspondence, information, document or other material to any other person shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees, or with both.” The criminals can also be punished under Section 441 of IPC which defines criminal trespass and section 509 of IPC for scandalizing virtue of a woman. It can be best explained by “Ritu Kohli case”, which was the first case to be reported on cyberstalking. “Ritu Kohli, 32 years aged woman used to work in New Delhi and all of a sudden, she started receiving a series of emails from an unknown source. The person, through the mails, threatened her to either pose nude for him or cough up Rs.1 Lakh but she somehow ignored the mails. But the alarming situation arose when she received a letter through post threatening her that her morphed pictures will be posted on adult sites and also threatened to paste her morphed pictures in her neighbourhood. This was not over yet, she also received phone calls from unknown people at odd hours asking her for sexual favours. She filed a police complaint and cyber stalker Manish Kathuria was arrested and was booked under section 509 of IPC for outraging the modesty of a woman and also under the IT Act.”
Upsurge in Cybercrime cases against Women amid Lockdown :-
The nationwide lockdown which was imposed on 25th march to prevent the spread of coronavirus could not cease escalation in the number of cybercrime cases against women. Especially the increase in sextortion cases during lockdown and it was targeted by “caged criminals”. “According to National Commission for Women (NCW) data, 54 cybercrime complaints were received online in April in comparison to 37 complaints - received online and by post - in March, and 21 complaints in February.” The number is on rise because due to lockdown frustration among the cyber criminals is soaring as they are confined. As a result, criminals are blackmailing women about morphing their images and are asking them for sexual favours.
No sooner than the lockdown was announced, there was unanticipated reporting of cases related to misinformation, fake news, many cases reported that there were malware links and after clicking on the same links all the information of the phone was transferred to the criminals and also it automatically turned on microphone and camera which also captured their personal juncture. There were so many cases which were not reported by the victims considering the fact that it might tarnish their prominence in the society or were worried about the “social stigma” linked with cybercrime.
Repercussion of Cyber Crimes on the life of Women :-
Innumerable studies have reported that chances of women being a cyber crime victim is much more than that of men. As a result, the crime leaves an endless brunt on the life of a victim and their life becomes far more miserable than they have ever thought. Majority of the victims faced financial loss due to networked scam and the criminals extorted their money by blackmailing them. Also, many of them could not report the same to the crime branch because they did not have courage and also anticipated that reporting such fraud would shun them from society. The burden and loss affected them psychologically. “This anxiety affected their mental health and it was found that most of the sufferers experienced anxiety and insomnia, followed by social dysfunction and then somatic symptoms and finally severe depression.” It was also observed that women had to face harassment by their husband for their deception and in some cases divorce notices were also issued. When a significant victim population who were pursuing education was taken into account to analyse the effects of cybercrime, it was concluded that they were not able to concentrate and as a result many of them lost their jobs. Taking a shorter picture of the impact which cybercrime had on the minds of people, it can be definitely concluded that women are the most affected by the crime and had to bear the torments to uphold her standards in the society.
Considering all the crimes and effects which it leaves on the life of people, it clearly indicates that there is a critical obligation on the part of the government to make and implement laws for cyber security. Since we lack cyber security laws, it is observed that one in three women in our country has to experience cyber stalking or cybercrime. It is necessary on the part of judicial authorities to pace with the development of technical technologies and ensure that no individual has to suffer as a result of growing technologies. “From abusive online comments and cyber-harassment to the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes through social media and online imagery, these new types of violence are extending to the real world and have a tremendous impact on women’s physical safety and psychological well-being.” Not only the legal system and authorities are responsible to ensure the safety of women, but the need of the hour requires that women themselves have to sense the consequences of operating irrelevant websites and should become receptive.
1. Deepshikha Sharma, ‘Cyber Crime In India : Are Women A Soft Target’ (Legal Service India )
<http://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-639-cyber-crime-in-india-are-women-a-soft-target.html>asaccessed 22 June 2020.
2. Rajat Misra, ‘Cyber Crime Against Women’ (SSRN, 20 September 2014)
<https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2486125> as accessed 22 June 2020.
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5. Soumik Ghosh, ‘India’s IT Act 2000 a toothless tiger?’ (CSO, 12 November 2019)
<https://www.csoonline.com/article/3453078/india-s-it-act-2000-a-toothless-tiger-that-needs-immediate-amendment. as accessed 23 June 2020.
6. The Information Technology Act, 2000.
7. Mukut Ray, ‘Cyber Stalking- A “virtual” Crime With Real Consequences’ (World Pulse, 5 November 2012)<https://www.worldpulse.com/community/users/mukut/posts/22772> as accessed 23 June 2020.
8. Press Trust of India, ‘"Significant" Increase In Cyber Crimes Against Women During Lockdown: Experts’
(NDTV, 3 May 2020) <https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/significant-increase-in-cyber-crimes-against-women-during-lockdown-experts-2222352>as accessed 23 June 2020.
Author - Rudhi Nawal
Student at National Law University Odisha.