How ‘yellow journalism’ and internet is failing the women victims of online harassment and revenge porn
CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER
Almost a month and half back the whole south India woke up to a rather “juicy news” of “Bhavana” molestation case. She is not “Nirbhaya.” Her name was not given by the any legislator or judge or executive to protect her identity. Bhavana is a Malayalam female cine-star whose real name can be found in Wikipedia and numerous film magazines. She was apparently molested in a moving car by some including her former drivers. As the news report suggests, the perpetrators also took ‘objectionable’ photos of her while the incidence was going on. The news surfaced exactly when I was enjoying the sweet success of publishing my latest article “Celebrities and cyber crimes:an analysis of the victimisation of female film stars on internet” published in Temida: Journal on victimization, human rights and gender Volume 19 • Issue 3-4• 2016 .
We the movie fans often understand that actors or actresses may themselves attract negative publicity by voluntarily getting into troubles or playing the victim card. But in some cases this may not be true. Women actors may face numerous problems, harassment and threats in real life as well as virtually. One of such problem is facing voyeurism and revenge porn almost on daily basis. Some actors turn numb to such harassment as they take these as (negative) part of their work. Some may reach out to police to show genuine concern. In Bhavana’s case, a minute analysis would show that she was not only physically violated, but also she became a victim of ‘revenge porn’, a term that our laws still do not recognise and tries to cover it up by numerous legal provisions which may not provide the actual answer. I call it ‘revenge porn’ because once such ‘objectionable’ pictures were taken; it would not take more time to get it circulated through WhatsApp. These contents may then land in various ports including to the secret sellers of porn clippings and obviously to the XXX rated sites. No one, not even the police may do anything to prevent secondary victimisation of the victim in such cases.
What concerns me more is publication of her name. S.228-A of the Indian Penal Code prohibits publishing, printing etc of the name and information of the victim/s who may have been victim of rape or sexual molestation. This protection is brought in to protect the privacy of the victim and more so, to encourage women victims of sexual violence to come up for reporting of crimes without the fear of ‘recognition’ and resultant possible social exclusion. But this provision also has a loose noose : when the victim herself allows to publish her name or identity, this provision will cease to help the victim. We don’t know whether Bhavana herself permitted the reporters to use her name and photograph but I can definitely understand that this has again created a bad example of ‘no identity protection’. Common people who may not be expected to know the pigeon holes of law, would understand a completely different story: reporting would bring media highlight which will destroy the physical and mental privacy of the victim and her family. But this does not mean that I am ignoring the provisions of S.228-A, IPC. Women victims must also be made aware of this twist of law relating to identity protection. We may expect good and bad results of this: the provision may be misused, women may be able to take a rational decision.
Let us, the civil citizens take a preventive decision to not to spread any offensive videos/still images of women actors even if it may surface as apparently (ugly, unethical movie promo) genuine. Let us respect all women as equal irrespective of their job.
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