Friday, November 9, 2012

Why do Indian women feel reluctant to report cases of cyber victimisation?


Women victims in the cyber space are increasing in number. The patterns which are mostly followed are creation of fake profiles either with the picture of the victim  that the perpetrator already had with him, or with the picture and informations that the perpetrator got accessed to through hacking in to the private emails / social media profiles of the victim. In my paper presented in the Sweden criminology symposium this year, I had shown ( excerpts of my presentation are available  @  that such sorts of victimisations also play big role in damaging the reputation of the victim in the marriage market and can even break marriages. Fear of this often makes women victims withdrawn from reporting the crimes and encourages them to take the other way round to remove the offensive content many often by hacking (see excerpts from my presentation in the above link). But it would be very wrong to say that women are only the victims.  There are couple of examples to show that women are turning into perpetrators also. In my above presentation I had shown how women are turning into “victim-turned offender”. Apart from this, many women are also following the path of male cyber perpetrators by creating fake avatars of other women in the social media. But how many women victims really turn up to report?
The recent case of singer Chinmayee’s online victimisation which included threats and obscene contents against her, created ripple. Quite simultaneously, I got to see many write ups which questioned the power of Tweets and the power of section 66A of the Information Technology Act which very broadly prohibits offensive speech in the cyber space. I also came across some write-ups which pointed out that even the singer also had used her right to speech. This reminds me of the noted writer Meena Kandasamy whom I am very fortunate to have in my own Facebook friend list. Meena was also targeted for her bold feminist ideologies. But these two women didn’t keep quite when they were targeted. Both of them reported the incidences to the police.  There are many women cine actors and TV actors  who refuse to bow down to the people who play with their images in the cyber space. But not to forget, these women refuse to recognise the after effects of police-reporting and media trails of the case as ‘social stigma’. General women victims are not courageous enough to take this path ( I had researched on this issue in my paper Halder D., & Jaishankar, K. (2011). Cyber Gender Harassment and Secondary Victimization: A Comparative Analysis of US, UK and India. Victims and Offenders, 6(4), 386-398). There are legal provisions through which women victims can obtain protection to their identity. But hardly any one is aware about it. At the same time, many women victims feel that such legal provisions are ultimately for a ‘namesake’ and they don't really keep their own promises. The recent press release by the DGP Hyderabad (see assuring the women victims of cyber crime about the protection of their identity is a welcome move. It is a hard truth that we have patriarchal system and women are judged by their morality not only in the marriage market, but many women do believe that this would affect their credibility in the job market as well. Like this officer, if other officers take steps to publicly announce that victims of cyber crimes would be protected from identity leakage may be women victims can get enough strength to seek proper help rather than improper help which would finally push them to even more dangerous zone.
Wish you all a happy and prosperous Deepavali
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