Cyber Law for the women, of the women, by the women: But how ?

by Debarati Halder*

Introduction

Cyber law in India received a new cote of colour with the amended version in 2006 when the draftsmen tried to stretch the meaning of cyber crime from e- commercial crimes to newly evolving “disturbing”, “harassing” crimes which generally aim women at large. The chapter on “Offences” became plump with insertion of section 66 for dealing with all kinds of computer related offences; section 66A for dealing with Punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service; section 67 for dealing with Punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form and then again section 67 A for dealing with Punishment for publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act, etc. in electronic form. It is good news for women “netizens” indeed because most of these crimes are targeted for them. But as a woman myself, I wonder are we, the forgotten and neglected species in the Information Technology Act, really in the safer zone now? The lawyer within me vehemently says YES, women are safer now, but not the woman within me.


Let us check why this conflict arises in most of our minds.

1. There is no specifically mentioned “crime against women in the internet” in India The offences mentioned above can happen to persons belonging to both the sexes. But whereas a man can bravely face the society after seeing himself portrayed embarrassingly in the web world, a woman can not. The Indian Penal Code has some sections mentioning “woman” in it; namely, section 509 which deals with punishment for word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of woman; again, section 498 A mentioning punishment for offences of cruelty by husband or relatives of husband of a woman; and last but not the least, the chapter dealing with sexual offences. Don’t women deserve similar treatment by the Information Technology Law too?

Women victims often feel very embarrassed and shy to report the case to the police , the very common reason being “when there is no chapter on crime against women in the Cyber law then how the police could register my case ?” It is fortunate as well as unfortunate that the victims of cyber crime are “educated”. I use the word fortunate because these victims first make a survey of series of similar cases and all possible provisions of the Information technology Act to know the nature of the crime by which they are affected and then they decide to take help of the police. At the same time, I use the word “unfortunate” because it is a bitter truth that in the internet, especially the female species are always considered as “prey” for some group of people who know very well what are loopholes of the Indian cyber law by which they can trap the girls.

2. Absence of female cyber cops and cyber cells is another big factor prohibiting the women victims from opening up. When a nasty crime happens to a woman “netizen”in India, she feels too embarrassed to speak to the male officers. Hence, either she does not complain of it or if she does, it goes hush hush with her friends and immediate family. But the complaint never reaches the police. The recent initiatives taken by the cyber police cells of various states as well as the Central, enables one to lodge his or her complaint online. But what happens when investigation begins? Further such e-forms hardly assure women victims of any respite since no where it is mentioned that only women cyber police will be deployed for women victims.

3. Need for female counselors is the biggest need of the day for cyber crime relating to women in India. A woman victim feels traumatized after a horrifying experience in the internet. But unlike other crimes, these virtual crimes can not be seen or felt by others other than the victim herself. The trauma may lead her to total withdrawal from the society or even to suicide which only an expert female counselor can prevent by thorough counseling and moral support .In such extreme cases the family as a whole must be called in to give emotional strength to the victim. It is essential that such counselor must have some knowledge of cyber law .It could be quite similar to that of free legal aid and counseling offered by every court to women in general or even like the counseling sessions for matrimonial cases in the family courts.

4. The female “judge”: Last but not the least, there must be a complsory post of woman adjudicator and woman chairperson in the Cyber Regulatory Appellate Tribunal who should hear the cases relating to crime against women. It is true that till now there is rarely any case of such nature (where a woman has been victimized) which has reached the Cyber Regulatory Appellate Tribunal, but the time when such cases will pour in, is approaching fast.



Conclusion:

Still after amendment the IT Act of India is a law for E- commerce and not for general cyber crimes and this is the biggest problem with our Indian cyber law. It is not the women alone who suffer the most in the internet, but there are millions of men and children as well who are victimized every day in this “vicious web”. Due to the absence of proper law on cyber crimes neither the victims, (specially women in this context) can understand how they are being victimized, nor they feel to go for legal help as they think the problem is purely “trust oriented”, “breach of trust” or even “an accident” which could be further prevented by a simple strong warning to the wrong doer. This would no way help to solve the problem and on the other hand aggravate the situation more. The best solution for crimes against women in the internet would be TO REPORT the case to the police station or to the cyber cell. The more the cases are reported, the more the scope of analyzing the various natures of cyber crime enhances and this will finally help the victims as well the well the law and justice machinery to protect and prevent cyber crime, especially crime against women.







* Debarati Halder is an advocate and an independent scholar. She can be reached @ Debaratihalder @gmail.com. Her website is www.debaratihalder.co.nr


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