Combating Cyber Crimes Against Women

Session Report 
Ankita 

Introduction 

The discussion of Day 5 of the “Ending Gender-Based Violence Cohort 2” online National Spring School Program organized by IMPRI and the Gender Impact Studies Center brought to the surface the history of the Women Rights Based Movements and Case studies in successful interventions.

The chair of the session Professor Vibhuti Patel started the session with a brief recall of the discussions from the previous session on raising awareness around Policies and Governance related to Gender-Based Violence. She emphasized that it is important to have women as representatives and active participants in the decision-making and leadership positions in criminal justice and law. 

In her chair’s remark, she raised some pertinent questions like – we need to reflect on why our queer society is facing varied kinds of violence? Does it reflect the unaware and ignorant aspect of our society? 

It is important to provide local-level, community-based continuous support and gender sensitization to civil society in legal aspects as well. People not knowing their rights is another reason that certain crimes continue to be practiced by their perpetrators. The process of knowing our rights provides us with the space where we can reflect on the legal process and the implications of the rights that are formulated. 

Combating Cyber Crimes Against Women

The last speaker for the day was Advocate Shalu Nigam. Shalu Nigam fights for gender equality through law, research, and activism. With a PhD in social work and a law degree, she advocates for women’s rights and human rights in the Delhi courts and works alongside other activists in India.

Adv. Shalu Nigam’s presentation stressed the importance of bridging the digital gap to empower women. Many cybercrimes against women go unreported, making it difficult to understand the true scope of the problem and its impact on victims’ lives. These crimes can cause lasting psychological, social, and economic damage.

At the beginning of her presentation she used authenticated data to show the divide between the resources and internet accessibility among men and women across the globe. The numbers were quite disappointing. Globally 62% of men use the internet in comparison to 57% of women who can access the internet. The data is even more surprising in the least developed countries where 19% of women have access to the internet as compared to 86% of women in the developed countries. 

The accessibility of resources is one of the factors with which the power dynamics comes into play. In an era where we are immersed in information, having the tools and knowing their use does define the role of the more powerful as distinct and important. One example can be seen when COVID was prevalent and teaching learning was happening in an online mode, many parents preferred the education of their son over their daughters. This selection of who will get to learn and who will not reflects in the defined roles of gender in our society. 

The problem that arises with the use of the internet itself is data trafficking. Social media platforms are designed such that they commodify the personal information of the users and this data mining happens at a large scale. As the internet has connected us to the global world it has created new problems where avoidance to hateful comments and social conformity have become desirable. The use of hateful comments and derogatory language against women have increased which adds to the forms of violence that are performed against women. The sexism and misogyny is thus permeating at a faster rate. 

Adv. Shalu Nigam highlighted several laws that protect women online, including sections 354A, 354C, and 354D of the Indian Penal Code, and sections 66C, 66E, 67A, and 72 of the Information Technology Act, 2000. These laws provide legal recourse for victims and penalties for perpetrators. However, Nigam also pointed out weaknesses in existing legislation. Laws like The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986, haven’t been fully effective, and there are gaps that need to be addressed. Proving consent online is challenging, and privacy violations on social media platforms are a growing concern.

Conclusion 

The prime argument that came out of the detailed presentations and further discussions is similar to the previous speakers;she emphasized the need for awareness programs to educate women about their rights, available laws, and legal options. This will empower them to fight against cybercrimes.

Ankita is a research intern at IMPRI and is currently pursuing her MA in Education and Development from NIEPA.

Acknowledgement – The author would like to thank Reet Lath for sharing her valuable suggestions to enhance the report.

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