Introspecting The Gaps Between Cyber Crimes Against Women And Outlawing Cyber Crimes

Pranav Kumar Kaushal & Priyamvada Kaushal

Abstract

Cyber crimes and cyber violence undoubtedly has emerged out as the new form of violence in the modern century of science and technology. With the advancement of technology the way of committing crime has become more sophisticated as there has been significant advancement in the outlook of the world in human perspective. It is the cyber crimes only which has been considered as a real threat to fast technology development. Cyber crime is not an old sort of crime to the world. In simple words it is defined as that criminal activity which takes place through the medium of computers or internet or other sources that has been recognised by the information technology. Cyber crime has played a devastating role in the modern India. It is not only the criminals which are causing enormous loss to the society but also that the criminals are able to conceal their identity to a greater extent. There are large numbers of illegal activities which are being committed over the internet by technically skilled criminals. It is of very serious concern that countries like India where information technology facilities are widespread but legal awareness is very low. Crimes against women form a crucial part of cyber crimes in India and this technology is now misused where every women’s dignity, privacy and security are being challenged every moment. Trolling, threatening, stalking, abusing, body shaming, defaming, body shaming, surveillance and other form of indecent representation of women are rampant in this cyber world. This paper deliberately attempts to define cyber crimes which are a real threat to women. The paper is divided into four parts. The first part outlines the introduction and related work on cyber crime against women. The second part identifies the common form of cyber crimes. The third part deals with the cyber victimization of women in India. The fourth part deals with the loopholes that exit under the Indian law and some suggestion measures required to fight against cyber crimes.

Introduction

With the advancement of modern technologies, the way of committing crime has become more sophisticated and there has been significant change in the outlook of human perspective. The cyber crime is not an old sort of crime of the world. It has been defined as the criminal activity which takes place through the medium of computers and other technologies recognised by the Information Technology Act. Cyber Crimes is one of the most prevalent crimes which have played a devastating role in the world. Taking a wider interpretation, it can be observed that cyber crime includes the illegal activity where a computer or either internet technologies used as tool or target or both. Information technology has widened its scope over the last two decades and has become the axis of modern technical development. With the advancement of internet, the crime using Internet has widened their crime commission in different direction. Cyber crime has emerged out as a global phenomenon and women are the soft target to this form of crime. Cyber crime is like an uncontrollable evil having its base in misusing the growing dependence on computers in modern life. In the 21st Century the usage of computers and its allied technologies is growing rapidly and has become urge which facilitate the user connivance. This kind of medium is immeasurable and infinite. Whatsoever the good does the cyber technologies does to us, it has dark side also.[1] Some of the emerged cyber crimes are cyber stalking, cyber terrorism, email spoofing, email bombing, cyber pornography, cyber defamation which is committed by making Internet is used like a hotspot for commission of such crimes. Cyber crimes have become a Universal problem which includes a plethora of illegal activities under the umbrella of science and technologies. With increase in number of social networking websites in India there is an exploding looming gender imbalance in social networking users. This is evident as number of internet user is using these websites as a tool to target crimes against women. Debarati Halder define cyber crime with reference to the gender perspective and defined “Cyber crime against women as crime targeted against women with the motive to intentionally harm the victim psychology and physically using modern telecommunication networks such as mobile phones, internet and other devices”[2]. Today, the crime against women is increasing at a very high rate and women have been the victims of such cyber crimes as they are mentally harassed, depressed and sexually exploited and does everything which is required to degrade the women identity and reputation by the offender.

What Is Cyber Crime?

The term Cyber crime may be judicially interpreted by the courts in India, but however the term Cyber Crimes is not defined in any act or statute passed by the Indian Legislature. Cyber Crime refers to that uncontrollable evil having its base in the misuse of growing dependence on computers in modern world of Science and technology. The oxford dictionary defines the term Cyber Crimes as a criminal activity carried out by means of computers or other internet sources.[3] Cyber Crimes may be said to be those species of which genus is the conventional crime and where other either the computer is an object or subject of the conduct of constituting crime.[4]Professor T.S Vishwanthan has given three different aspect to the definition of Cyber Crimes in his book “The Indian Cyber laws with Cyber Glossary as follows:

  • Any illegal action in which a computer is a tool or object of the crime is to influence the function of a computer.
  • Any incident associated with computer technology in which a victim suffered or could have suffered loss or damage to his or her reputation.
  • Computer abuse is considered as illegal, unethical or unauthorised behaviour relating to the automatic processing and transmission of data[5]
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Nature and Scope of Cyber Crime

Crime is a socially correlated phenomenon which cannot be segregated from the society. Thus, the nature of crime depends upon the nature of society.  The advancement of the technologies has produced economic, social and political problems in the society and has created complexity which is difficult to understand and even more difficult to apply the law to face the present situation. The state machinery and equipments have not been equipped with enough sources and knowledge to handle these cyber crimes. The transformation of computers with the modern technologies has made life not only convenient but also helped different sections of the communities of the world to come closer. But when we look to the global dimension of cyber crime we find this aspect difficult to dealt and handle it. The evolution of Internet technologies has given us with so many advantages but it has also provided the scope of criminal to commit crime with least chance of detection. The cyberspace has proved a boon to the changing behaviour in the society but on the other hand the concept of cyber crime has gained enough speed and today we are facing great threat of its impact on world society. The human society has become more vulnerable to cyber crimes due to which it has created more and more dependence on the technologies.

Cyber Crimes against Women

With the expanding reach of computer and its technologies it has become easier for the people to keep in touch with the people across long distance. However these means of free flow of information and ideas has given rise to high incidence of irresponsible behaviour on the part of misuse of the technologies. The vulnerability and safety of women is the biggest concern of any criminal and penal provision but unfortunately women are still the defenceless victim of cyber crimes.[6]  Cyber crimes against women are on the alarming rate and it also may pose a major threat to the security of the person as whole. [7] India is considered as one of the those countries which has enacted IT Act 2000 to combat cyber crimes but still the act have certain loopholes in order to dealt with cyber crimes and punishments.

Types of Cyber Crime Committed Against Women

Amongst the cyber crimes that are committed against women and society at large are as follow:

  1.  Cyber Stalking
  2. Cyber Bullying
  3. Harassment via social media
  4. Email spoofing
  5. Cyber defamation
  6. Morphing

Cyber Stalking

Cyber stalking is one of the most widespread internet crimes in this modern world. The word “Stalking” means pursuing stealthily. Cyber stalking in simple terms may be referred as online harassment or online abuse.[8] It involves the use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass a person.[9] The utilization of such technologies involves and allows the stalkers to harass their targets from oceans away. Cyber Stalking involves the invading the privacy of person’s movement across the internet by posting messages on the bulletin board and constantly messaging the victim through emails or other medium with obscene language. However Cyber Stalking affects both men and women but women especially of the age group 16-35 are disproportionately targets to this cyber stalking and it is believed that over 75% of the victims of cyber stalking are women. In Cyber stalking the stalker access the victim’s personal information like name, contact number, family background etc. In Ritu Kohli case, and a stalker used obscene and obnoxious language and post her residence telephone number and other personal details on various websites, inviting people to chat with her on the phone. As a result she started receiving calls at odd hours of the day and she lodged complaint against such acts. The Delhi police immediately sprang into the operation and traced down the IP address of the hacker and stalker Manish Kathuria and booked him under section 509 of the Indian Penal code for outraging the modesty of women and also under various section of Information Technology Act 2000. Cyber Stalking these days has become a serious issue and state should take appropriate measure to control the same. Thus, cyber stalking is one of the most reported cyber crimes against women which involves following stealthily and tracking a woman’s online and offline movement and activities. This includes stealthily and without her knowledge and gathers information with regard to her interests, likes and dislikes personal information, family background and contact details. The information gathered by the stalker can be used to commit crimes both online and offline such as posting the woman’s name, information on a dating service.

Harassament Via Email

The other form of Cyber Crimes include harassment via email which include blackmailing, threatening, bullying and constant sending of love letters in anonymous names or regular sending of embarrassing emails to the other. There is no doubt about the fact that email has become one of the most heavily and most used electronic tool of the decade. But the perpetrators of such crime can be booked under Section 292 A and Section 509 of the Indian Penal Code for printing or publishing grossly indecent matter which intended to blackmail or uttering any word or by gestures which intends to insult the modesty of a woman. In the case of State of Tamil Nadu v. Suhas Katti[10] the emails were forwarded to the victim for information by accused through false email account opened by him in her name. The posting of such messages has resulted in the mental harassment to the victim and she therefore filed a complaint against the accused under Section 469 and 509 of Indian Penal Code and under Section 67 of Information Technology Act, 2000.

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Cyber Bullying

Cyber bullying in simple terms refer to that crime which is wilful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers and other electronic means by sending messages of an intimidating, threatening or of blackmailing nature. In Saddam Hussain v. State of Madhya Pradesh[11] the accused has outraged the modesty of the victim by blackmailing her through obscene images and videos. The Honourable High Court finds the accused guilty under Section 354 D and Section 507 of Indian Penal Code. Cyber bullying is one of the most related crimes where women are threatened, blackmailed in the physical world which often involves an illegal demand for the money etc.

Morphing

Morphing involves the editing of the original picture by an unauthorised user with fake identity and then uploads or reloads the victim’s picture after editing. It is a common phenomenon that women’s picture are downloaded from various websites by fake users by creating fake ideas and profiles after editing them. Morphing also involves attaching the image of woman who is being targeted with that of the naked clad body of another through the use of various editing apps available on the internet. Thus, such activity tantamount to the violation of various provisions of Information Technology Act 2000 and the violator can be punished under section 441 of Indian Penal code for criminal trespass, under Section 290 for committing public nuisance and under Section 292 A for printing or publishing grossly indecent or scurrilous matter or matter intended to blackmail and under Section 501 of Indian Penal Code for defamation.

Email Spoofing And Impersonation

Email spoofing refers to the term which is used to describe fake and fraudulent emails activity in which the sender’s address and other parts of the email header are altered to appear as though the email originated from known or authorised sources. By changing properties of email, the hostile user can make email to appear to be from someone other than the actual sender. While impersonation, on the other hand involves representation of an individual to be a person who is not in actual. The anonymity of users in the cyber space lends itself easily to impersonation of women. Both email spoofing and impersonation could attract the penalty and punishment under Section 415 and Section 416 of the Indian Penal Code. Cheating by personation entails cheating by pretending to be the some other person or representing himself to be a person that he is not. The law explains that cheating by personation is committed by those individual who personates himself as the real person. Section 66 of the Information Technology Act 2000 provides for the punishment for cheating by personation by suing a communication device or other electronic devices. It is an offence punishable with up to three years imprisonment and fine up to Rs one lakh under the information technology Act.

Cyber Pornography

Cyber pornography is the act of using the cyber space to create and publish pornographic material. Traditionally the law related to pornography has been addressed under section 292 of the Indian Penal code dealing with the offence of obscenity. Any material or matter is considered as obscene if it is lascivious to the pursuant interest of the general public. The Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code makes selling, distributing or exhibiting putting into circulation or taking part in receiving profit from any business related to the use of obscene objects, advertising, offering or attempting to do an act which is an offence under this section punishable with a term of up to five years of imprisonment and a fine up to Rs 5000. In addition Section 354 A of the Indian Penal Code was inserted in the year 2013dealing with the offence of sexual harassment and also includes a man showing pornographic material to a woman against her will. The punishment under the Information technology act is more stringent in which the offence is punishable with imprisonment up to five years and fine up to Rs ten lakh for subsequent conviction.

Cyber Defamation

Cyber tort including cyber libel and defamation is another common crime committed against women on internet. Although both men and women are subjected to the victims of the same offence but women are more vulnerable to these acts. This occurs when any individual with the help of computer or other electronic device publishes defamatory matter or information against the other person. The term defamation is used to define the injury that is caused to the reputation of the individual in the eyes of third person. With the increased use of computer devices and other medium it has become easy for the cyber criminal to publish defamatory matter which can damage the reputation of the individual. With the exponential increase of electronic gadget the chances of the use of web for publishing the defamatory content has also increased multi- fold and there is need for redressal agency in this specified area. As per section 67 of the Information Technology Act 2000, any person who sends by means of computer sources or medium any offensive information shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to three years and with fine. The offence of cyber defamation is also covered under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code which state for the punishment for the offence of defamation which can extend to two years or with fine as well.

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Magnitude of Cyber Crimes against Women in India

The transcendental jurisdiction of Internet causes great threat to the society in the form of cyber crime. The main victim of such offences of cyber crime can be considered the women and children. It is a common phenomenon that the information of the net surfers are being disclosed very easily by the owners of the cyber café and this information is being used for the illegal purpose.  According to the official statistics provided by the National Crime Bureau records the cases of cyber crimes registered in the year 2014 were about 44,679 while in 2015 it were about 49,455, in 2016 it were about 50,362 while in 2017 it crossed the limit of 55,000.

Suggestions

It is said that prevention is better than cure; therefore a citizen should take precautions while operating the internet and should follow preventive measure against cyber crimes by following some of the measure mentioned below such as

  1. One should avoid disclosing personal information to the strangers via email or through any messaging apps
  2. One most avoid sending photographs to the strangers
  3. Password security must be strong
  4. Fake email identity shall be treated as offence
  5. Website owner shall have to look irregularity on their site
  6. Establishment of cyber crime cell for the investigation in India
  7. Strict statutory laws need to be framed in order to prevent cyber crimes
  8. Compensatory remedy and complete justice shall be provided to the victim of the Cyber Crime

Conclusion

From the last three decades computer technologies has entirely become an essential component of human life. The increasing dependence of human beings on these technologies has created unparalleled incidents of crime and misuse. It is a fact that most forms of cyber crimes have misused the technology to the next level which was never made for that. Cyber technologies provides plethora of the opportunities to the cyber criminals to cause harm and exploit the innocent people who are still unaware about the usage of such technologies. Indian women are still the greater victims of the cyber crimes as still they are not open to immediately report the cyber abuse or cyber crime. The growth of cyber crime in India as well on the whole world is on the rise. Various forms of cyber crimes are experienced by Indian women who uses internet in purposeful context. Neither the provision of Information Technology nor the provision of Indian Penal Code fully reflects the ground realties of women’s suffering through cyber crimes. In many situations of the cyber crimes the provisions of the Indian Penal Code are applied by extrapolation and by the interpretations of the court. Although the Information Technology Act, 2000 provides for the punishment against computer related offences, but there are no specific provision on cyber crime against women though they are widely reported. The first step that should be taken is to provide for the legal remedies for the women against the cyber crimes that are committed by online ways or by any other electronic means. Another step that can be taken is to provide legal awareness to the women who are still unaware of their rights with context to Vis-Vis cyber crimes. Another step that can be taken is to build up for the mechanism of cyber cells to conduct speedy and efficient investigation of cyber crimes against women. Cyber crimes against women are the manifestations of the underlying patriarchy and misogyny that is prevalent in the Indian society. Also the women internet user requires an increased awareness of enhancing privacy settings in social networking sites as preventive measures.


[1] Prof. R.K.Chaubey, An Introduction to Cyber Crime and Cyber law 110 (Kamal Law House, 2012).

[2] Rashmi Saroha, Profiling a Cyber Criminal (February 15, 2019, 10:00 AM), https://www.ripublication.com/irph/ijict_spl/ijictv4n3spl_06.pdf

[3] Oxford Dictionary ( February 15, 2019, 10:00 AM),http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/cybercrime

[4] Parthasarathi Pati, Cyber Crime, ( February 16, 2019, 10:00 AM), http://www.naavi.org/pati/pati_cybercrimes_dec03.htm

[5]  S.T. Viswanathan, The Indian Cyber Laws with Cyber Glossary 81, (2nd ed. Bharat Law House, 2001)

[6]  Halder, D & Jaishankar, K, Cyber Crimes against Women in India: Problems, Perspectives and Solutions, 3.1 TMC Academic Journal (June 2008)

[7] Jeet, S, Cyber crimes against women in India: Information Technology Act, 2000, 47 Elixir International Journal Elixir Criminal Law, 8891-8895 (2012)

[8] Muthukumaran, B, cyber crime scenario in india, (February 20, 2019, 07:15 AM), https://docplayer.net/17880749-Cyber-crime-scenario-in-india.html.

[9] Kumar, M, Cyber stalking : Online harassment or Online abuses, (February 21,2019 06: 25 AM)

[10]  Decided by Add. CMM, Egmore, Chennai on 5/11/2004

[11] Saddam Hussain v. State of Madhya Pradesh