The contemporary India we inhabit has seen an era of domination of information and technology where interaction through the internet has become the new method of socializing and coming across new people. A platform for the free expression of opinions, the internet is accessed daily by millions of men and women throughout the world. It has become a medium of dissemination and broadcasting of information for trade, recreation, and various other purposes. However, this freedom is not all advantageous, with people using this stage for their own hostile purposes. Reports of Crimes committed through the use of the internet have become more and more prevalent over the years. These offenses, also known as cybercrimes, include hacking, phishing, hate crimes, child pornography, bullying, stalking, etc. and the extent of these acts has grown over the past two decades, with women and children being the prime victims of these offenses. “Victimization of women” is the epicentre of a large amount of controversy surrounding Cyber Crime.
But the question that stands out is that why women are the prime targets of cyber-crimes such as cyber stalking and cyber bullying? Over the years, as the world has progressed, e-commerce and Socialization have transcended on a new intangible stage, due to which it was felt that there was a need to develop new laws for safe procedures and protection of the users of such services. The Council of Europe’s Convention on Cybercrime in Budapest laid the foundation for “Pursuing a common criminal policy aimed at the protection of society against Cybercrime”. The major objective, however, was the promotion of safe trade and prevention of child pornography, with the modesty of women being a secondary issue. This convention that came in 2001 was not accepted by India, as it was not included in the drafting process.
So, in 2000, India formulated its own Information and technology.
Act, with an aim to make cyber activity in India safe. Section 66 and 67 of the Act, deal with the cyber offenses that may harm or injure a person. But an important point to take into account is that there is no express clause of this act dealing with cyberstalking or cyberbullying. Information Technology Act, 2000 doesn’t characterize ‘cybercrimes’ neither utilizations this articulation, yet just gives the meaning of and discipline for specific offenses.
Cyber stalking was defined in US v. Grob,as “An individual commits cyber stalking when, with the intent to kill, injure, or harass, he or she ‘uses the mail, any interactive computer service, or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce to engage in a course of conduct that causes substantial emotional distress to [another] person or places that person in reasonable fear of the death of, or serious bodily injury to’ that person, that person’s immediate family, or that person’s spouse or intimate partner”. In India, a person can be brought to answer for cyberstalking under Section 354 D of the Indian Penal Code[footnoteRef:4], but as mentioned, there is no particular provision dealing with the protection of a woman’s dignity in the IT Act.
Section 509 talks about the importance of protection of a woman’s modesty. Article 21 of The Indian Constitution and Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, talk about the dignity of an individual and the protection of one’s honour. The Indian Society holds the modesty of a woman in high regard, yet we are still struggling with tackling the negative effects of cyber stalking/defamation against women. Not only is there a lack of proper enforcement machinery, but the laws in themselves do not address this problem. The Laws under the It Act[footnoteRef:8] that deal with an invasion of privacy are bailable with a punishment of three years. Another problem is the lack of proper policing, which in instance led to the death of a young girl named Vinupriya[footnoteRef:9], whose complaint was not paid due attention by the police. Further cases such as Kiran Girotra v. state[footnoteRef:10], in which a delay to file an FIR led to a change in the judicial decision also highlight the lackadaisical attitude of the law enforcement mechanisms. It is also likely to that a conflict of jurisdiction concerning different courts situated in different national jurisdictions may arise. Further, there are great differences between national legislations, laws and legal procedures. Another problem is that is that section 1 of the Act does not lay down the approach of how any such provision would be applicable in practical terms across transnational boundaries and jurisdictions. The Government may however use the extradition only if there is a valid treaty between the two countries.
Superpowers such as the USA[footnoteRef:11] have legislations dealing with cyberstalking expressly, but there is no particular legislation dealing with the same in India. The scope of Section 354 D is also limited as it doesn’t include stalking by anybody outside the country and the Indian penal code, 1860 is extra-territorial but there is a lack of effective extradition laws. Canada can put a lid on victimization of women on online Social Networking Websites through specific chapters of Canadian Criminal code which are meant for both men and women. However, Indian law does not recognize a large number of these offenses that occur on such platforms such as cyber bullying, cyber eve-teasing, cyber harassment, cloning of the profile, etc. in the Information technology Act (2000, the original and 2006 the amended version). The lack of universal laws to regulate social networking websites and the non-recognition of the crimes that happen against women in the cyber dimensions also encourages the growth of online victimization of women. Women are considered a soft target for all the offenders that actually commit these acts that affect a woman both mentally and psychologically. The offenders know that the fear of damaging their reputation may prevent a woman from coming forward and reporting the crimes. A report on Crime in India highlighted that many women users, including prominent bloggers and activists, had deleted their accounts due to online abuse and harassment of women.
Also, the lack of awareness about the Policies that the women must adhere to protect themselves from such crimes must be highlighted as a reason for the promotion of such crimes on a global level as well as in India. A survey of 500 social media users and interviews with ten of the respondents, combining quantitative and qualitative methods of research was conducted. The key findings of this study about awareness and accessibility of the law including the following: 30% of the respondents said they were not aware of laws to protect them from online harassment; and only a third of respondents had reported the harassment to law enforcement; among them, 38 % characterized the response as “not at all helpful.”
Cyber stalking is not only restricted to India, with countries like the USA, Canada, UK, Australia, China and other cyber-savvy countries facing a similar problem. There have been several conventions and treaties devised by countries from all over the world to tackle cyber-crime on a global scale. There is a need to develop globally accepted gender-sensitive Conventions on Cyber Crime that allow a free flow of information across various countries concerning Cyber Laws. All the major conventions, resolutions and treaties that have already been directed towards tackling cybercrime do lack in various aspects that can be dealt with international cooperation and a lot more focus on personal aspects and impact of cybercrime on a global level.
The advancement of technology is a source of untapped potential which can give a number of opportunities as well as pose a great number of threats to the cultural superiority of a region, whether it is a state or a country. The Indian legal mechanism is still somewhat vague and wide with respect to Cyber-crimes that are committed and the loopholes allow the offenders to get away with their wrongful acts. There is a need to amend the It act to include offenses such as Cyber stalking, Cyber bullying under different heads or one head itself. The lack of awareness of women concerning the growing cyber laws is also a matter of concern as the safety measures that allow a person to protect his/her Social Networking profile from intruders is absent. International Cooperation to allow the extradition of offenders needs to be implemented to prevent the misuse by foreigners as well as the use of fake ids on the internet. The need to make the offenses under IT act non-bailable to create a reasonable amount of fear in the eyes of the offender is also needed. IT Act to combat cyber-crimes, but issues regarding women are still untouched in this Act. As it is clear from the preamble of the act, it widely covers economic and commercial issues. “The issues of women’s rights in cyberspace could be contributed largely to the sluggish modes of the governments in executing the gender equality and gender justice promises made by the States in the form of fundamental rights” (Halder & Jaishankar, 2011b, p. 56).”
The extent of cybercrime in cities like Delhi is not only sizeable but its impact on teenagers and the youth is adverse, with people suffering from anxiety, depression and developing suicidal tendencies. It’s really easy to write off a case of cybercrime because of the small proportion they take of the total registered cases in our country, but the major issue is the attitudinal approach to tackling the root of the problem. The social stigmas attached with cybercrime and a woman are so deeply instilled in the mindset of the Indian society that it is almost impossible to get rid of them without an introspective reaction. The major step that can be taken towards it is addressing this deeply embedded social issue by cyber-crime specific laws that completely deal with every aspect that comes under the topic and that has not been covered already with the IT Act. [18: Anamika Singh, Impact of cyber crime on adolescents through social networking sites, 3 IJL, 104-106 (2017).
Today, when we talk about the internet and the way it has changed the world, the negative side is usually overlooked. We speak about greater connectivity, better commerce, increased communication but we forget about reduced security and greater threat. What’s the most important fact to this is that India as a country has stood against the major injustices against women, whether it be the Nirbhaya case, or the domestic violence of women, but we still are unaware as a nation to the consequences and impact of cybercrime, and the growing incidence of these offenses should be met with better, more efficient laws and greater awareness.