Fighting Revenge P*rnography In India- (Guest Post)
What Is Revenge P*ornography?
Revenge Pornography is publication of sexually explicit content, image or film portraying someone without the consent of the subject or the victim depicted. Often the material is retained in possession by perpetrators with intent to use it as a tool for blackmailing subjects into performing other sexual acts, to coerce them to continue relationship or punish ex-lovers for ending relationship.
At times it may take form of domestic violence, psychological abuse to humiliate or intimidate spouses or ex – partners who have broken off torrid relationships in a bid to either get them back or completely malign their reputation. More often revenge pornography is designed to silence women. Victims of revenge porn had their lives ruined, lost their jobs and found themselves socially ostracized.
Often the material is retained in possession by perpetrators with intent to use it as a tool for blackmailing subjects into performing other sexual acts, to coerce them to continue relationship or punish ex-lovers for ending relationship. At times it may take form of domestic violence, psychological abuse to humiliate or intimidate spouses or ex – partners who have broken off torrid relationships in a bid to either get them back or completely malign their reputation. More often revenge pornography is designed to silence women. Victims of revenge porn had their lives ruined, lost their jobs and found themselves socially ostracized.
Laws criminalizing revenge pornography have potentially been non- existent because of the following factors:
lack of awareness of the gravity of the problem argument that it may stifle free speech and expression
belief that victims could find recourse in existing laws with indecency, copyright infringement, defamation against public disclosure of private content, invasion of privacy and laws against pornography lack of concern for women related issues assuming its consensual.
The question is whether our legal system is sufficiently equipped to deal with such cases. Indian IT & other cyber laws does not have any provision by way of helping victims taking down obscene materials posted on the internet by way of revenge. There is no specific provision that deals with online revenge porn but the Information Technology Act, 2000 has inserted few important sections through 2008 amendments that may be extremely useful.
Sec 66 E of the IT Act, 2008 provides for punishment for violation of privacy: Whoever, intentionally or knowingly captures, publishes or transmits the ‘image of a private area’ of any person without his or her consent, under circumstances violating the privacy of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to 3 years or with fine not exceeding two lakh rupees, or with both
Sec 67 and 67 A of the same act prohibits the publication and distribution of obscene and sexually explicit materials respectively, under Sec 67 A the offence of publishing material which contains sexually explicit act or conduct carries a punishment of imprisonment for a term that may extend to 5 years with fine up to ten lakh rupees
Sec 67 B forbids all publication, distribution, facilitation and consumption in any manner under child pornography in cases where the victim is below 18 years.
It is almost impossible to completely obliterate things posted on the internet. Though few can be taken down, there is a possibility that other unknown sites have already copied and shared sexually explicit content. Thus the impact of revenge is far worse than one can actually visualize. The immediate effect is the social stigmatization of the already distressed victim by blaming them for the pictures and questioning their character. This can lead to severe depression, social alienation and in extreme cases suicide attempts by the victim who cannot handle the pressure of dealing with such targeted vengeance.
Criminal Law (Amended) Act 2013 have inserted the following sections which penalises stalking, sexually – tinted voyeurism which threaten the privacy and dignity of individuals. Criminal law expands its scope to deal with offences which violate physical privacy.
Newly inserted Sec 354 (C) of IPC through Criminal Law (Amended) Act 2013 also known as the “Voyeurism Section” criminalizes capturing and sharing images of a woman in a private space.
Sec 345 D of the Indian Penal Code reads as follows: “Whoever watches or captures the image of a woman engaging in a private act in circumstances where she would usually have the expectation of not being observed either by the perpetrator or by any other person at the behest of the perpetrator shall be punished on first conviction extend to 3 years, and shall also be liable to fine, and be punished on a second or subsequent conviction, with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than 3 years, but which may extend to 7 years and shall also be liable to fine.”
These offences are classified as cognizable and bailable for first conviction but for second and subsequent convictions they’ve been classified as cognizable, non-bailable under Schedule 1 CrPC and non- compoundable under Schedule 320 of CrPC.
Sec 53 A of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (amended) bars the use of sexual history in determining the consent of the woman in a prosecution of such an offence. Also bars cross-examination as the general “immoral character” of the victim. Further states the evidence of previous sexual experience with any person shall not be relevant on the issue of such consent or the quality of the consent.
In cases where the victim’s nude or obscene images or film is uploaded without consent the accused may be booked and punished for defamation under Sec 500 IPC and under Sec 506 IPC for criminal intimidation.
In the absence of proper counselling and reluctance on part of both the victim to come forward and police to file a complaint these cases are on the rise and occasionally victims are driven to take extreme steps like committing suicide.
These provisions however limit the scope of harassment by clearly defining the elements of offence and will help encourage victims to come forward and report. Unwarranted criminal intrusion into one’s physical privacy, sexual stereotyping of any individual through disclosure of intimate, personal details needs to be addressed and perpetrators punished.
This guest post has been written by Dr Neelakshi Goswami. You can follow her on @DrNeelakshiGswm
I want to thank Dr Neelakshi for writing the above post. She is very vocal on Twitter & all of you should follow her strong voice.
I also want you to remember what I said in my last post: Shame of abuse ALWAYS lies with the abuser. NEVER with the victim. Stand up, speak up & hand that shame back to the perpetrator.
No matter what you are going through, please don’t give your life away for sake of someone else’s action. Fight back, life is precious.
I want to remind you that everything is working in your favour. Believe it so. Never let any abuser get away. Spend 3 minutes to watch the video of my first workshop on fighting online harassment. The key take aways are here: https://akanchasrivastava.com/life/akancha-against-harassment-aah/
I am the Founder & Director of Azure, Strategic Brand Consulting Firm based in Mumbai.
I have had the good fortune of traveling across far away lands. I have also met some incredible people- monks, healers, leaders, magicians, entrepreneurs and more. This blog is an attempt to share these moments. If it strikes a chord with even one person or makes you smile, the purpose would have been served.