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Revenge Porn: A new means to harass people

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Fahid Fayaz Darangay

Most of the people particularly here in our state are not aware literally about this term, but when defined, they know it exists in our society but are shy to talk about it. Let me define this term for you. Revenge Porn refers to the sharing of explicit or sexual, images or videos, without the consent of the person in the image.
This is an issue among people of all ages from children as young as 10 to much older adults. However, the most commonly reported incidents have come from those who are in their teens to adults in their mid-twenties. This is often due to a lack of available information and support regarding the dangers and consequences of sharing explicit images.
Reported cases of revenge porn have increased significantly with mobile phones becoming more and more accessible and cameras being included as basic feature on most models, sharing images have never been so quick and easy. This has led to an increase in people sharing intimate images with their partners via social media, text and other instant messaging services.
Some statistics
Recent research by domestic violence charity Refuge found that one in seven young women has received threats that intimate photos will be shared without their consent. This is regarding to UK. Around 2,050 reports were made to a government-funded helpline, a 22% rise from last year.As cases have remained high despite coronavirus restrictions easing; those that run the service fear this is “the new normal”. The charity has helped remove 22,515 images this year – 94% of those reported by victims, as reported by BBC.
Statistics around revenge porn cases are not available in India simply because the law itself does not explicitly recognize it as a crime. However, as per the National Crime Records Bureau data, there was a 104 per cent spike in the volume of obscene content shared electronically between 2012 and 2014 alone. A 2010 cyber-crime report revealed that just 35 per cent of women report their victimization. It also states that 18.3 per cent of women were not even aware that they had been victimized. A survey by the Cyber and Law Foundation found that 27% of Internet users between the ages of 13 and 45 had dealt with incidents of image-based sexual abuse.
A victim’s view: “I had terrible anxiety and depression when this was all happening, my mental health had completely deteriorated. It was like I went viral in my own school in the 12th grade. I cried non-stop for the first few days. Thankfully we were off from school on prep-leave so I didn’t have to see my classmates every day but every time we had to go to school for anything I was slut-shamed, called names, laughed, pointed at. I felt totally alone,” adds Sanam**. “And why did he do all of this? He said it’s because I told people we were dating and it embarrassed him. That I didn’t take ‘his permission’ before telling people, that too after I refused to send him another picture after taking my bra off. What kind of warped logic is that?”
Sanam didn’t share what she was going through with her parents, who she says assumed she was under extreme stress because of her examinations. Looking back at the situation she says what troubles her the most was the reaction people had towards her while no one questioned the actions of the boy. “It definitely affected me on a deep level, especially my ability to connect with people in relationships now and fully trust them. It seems like it happened so long ago but it’s still all so fresh” she says.
After speaking to Sanam the long-term impact that revenge porn can have on a person’s life becomes clear. Globally, social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook , Instagram, What’s App and Reddit have prohibited the posting of revenge porn and sexual images without consent. Google search engine too has removed from its listing all revenge porn websites. Many regions like the UK, Canada, Australia, the Philippines, states in the USA and Japan have legislation in place that criminalizes revenge porn.
India’s cybercrime laws don’t exactly encompass the nuances of revenge porn – the dissemination of the content need not always be for ‘revenge’ purposes as the term may indicate or pornographic as to showing complete nudity. Neither does it include the sensitivity and understanding needed on the ground-level to execute it. The gender imbalance when it comes to revenge porn makes clear the patriarchal attitude and continued aggressions – micro or full-fledged – that women continue to face in real life and on the internet.
Sanam puts it aptly, saying, “It’s the easiest method for fragile masculinity to act out and for men to punish women in the digital age. We’re a country where rape videos are bought and sold. There is no notion of female freedom here. We’re punished for being sexually active and then denying sex – for being with men and then leaving them too. I don’t think India anywhere close to understanding the multiple layers of revenge porn when it comes to law and order. It would have been great to have a support system in the form of counselors and police offers, but we’re far from that.”*
Legalities in India:
In India, there exists no specific law that deals with revenge porn but victims under these sections get some relief:
• Section 354A: Sexual harassment of the nature of unwelcome physical contact and advances or a demand or request for sexual favours or showing pornography.
• Section 354C: Punishment for a man who watches, or captures the image of a woman engaging in a private act.
• Section 354:Using criminal force to any woman, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage her modesty
• Section 506: criminal intimidation.
• Section 120B: criminal conspiracy.
• Section 509: using word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman.
• Section 406: criminal breach of trust by misusing my daughter’s pictures.
• Section 354: assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty.
• Section 66E: violation of privacy.
• Section 67: publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form.
• Section 67A: publishing or transmitting of material containing sexual act, etc. in electronic form.
In March of 2018, in the case of State of West Bengal v Animesh Boxi, which is widely considered the first-ever, the Sessions court in Tamluk, West Bengal, sentenced a man to five years imprisonment along with a fine of Rs. 9,000, for uploading private and objectionable pictures of a girl on the internet without her consent. The accused was convicted under Sections 354, 354A, 354C and 509 of the Indian Penal Code along with Sections 66E, 66C, 67 and 67A of the Information Technology Act.
In our state there are hardly any cases of revenge porn reported but at the ground level there are hundreds of cases happening. These cases are not reported because of our social stigmas.
My word to decrease or cut it from the root is that the partners shouldn’t share the pictures, videos or any content which may become their nightmare after coming out of that relationship.
Note: This was shared by Sara Hussain on homegrown.co
Names changed upon request of contributor to protect their identity.
(The author is currently pursuing Masters in Financial Economics from Madras School of Economics, Chennai)

 


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