Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Viral contents, safety and privacy of women

After two days of International day for elimination of violence against women  (November,25)and a day after India celebrated Law Day on November 26, I write this blog with a mixed mind of happiness and confused state. The past weeks were noteworthy: a woman bank employee was attacked inside the ATM in Bangalore by a man who is still playing hide and seek when I write this blog and  the sensational Tehelka  journalist’s  sexual harassment case. Both to me are interconnected; all of them relate to the violence against women in different forms. All three incidences became sensational national news within no time due to viral sharing in the social media. The woman bank employee was attacked by man who was hiding inside the ATM counter with a weapon when she was operating the ATM machine. She fell down in a pool of blood. The attacker left the scene by pulling the shutter down. This was viewed by  millions of viewers again and again who watched the CCTV footage that was first aired by the news channels and then shared by almost every third social media user.  I can’t stop appreciating the two school boys who alerted the police men first. They are the internet generation kids, but  they  probably were more concerned about the crime and the victim whose blood was trickling down from the closed ATM kiosk, than wasting time in recording the scene in cell phones (remember the cartoon that is  doing rounds in  the net where people are taking picture/video -graphing  two hands slowly drowning in a water body?)  . Thanks to the school policies in many cities in India which prohibits children from bringing any digital communication devices to the school including the cell phone.  We are getting wonderful citizens for the future indeed. However, no sooner, there were floods of debates in the Facebook as well as in the news channel web links as to whether the CCTV footage should have been aired at all as this is brutal, violent attack and above all it may alert other such ATM attackers as to how to protect their identity when carrying on such operations. On the other hands many shared and showcased the video to spread the news and alert the police wherever and whenever the attacker can be seen.  Ironically i was also asked by some of my friends to see it and share it. I did neither.
        Following closely this, came the Tehelka journalist’s case. A woman journalist of the Tehelka news group complained to her seniors that she was sexually harassed and assaulted by the editor in chief of Tehelka .The news became extremely scandalous, yet sensational due to the reason that only this year India has finally got a bunch of strict laws against sexual harassment of women, including the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and Tehelka had been a news channel which carried many notable sting operations to reveal many closely kept scandalous secrets. Before the victim or her complaint could become a ‘hot item’ for the web, the police considered the legal safeguards for the victim which is freshly embedded in S. 16 of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and warned the general public to not to circulate the details of the victim in any social media. ( A very much needed warning indeed. When the Delhi gang rape happened almost a year back, the fury of people led the government to consider stricter punishment for rape. Internet was flooded with pictures of a woman in nebulizer who was described as the victim. no one, not even the police could stop such circulation of false, half known details of the victim especially when the penal laws prohibit releasing the information of the victim of sexual assault cases.
        I consider all women victims with equal concern when it comes to the issue of their privacy. While police has taken a brilliant historical step in prohibiting general public from posting any details of the victim, I feel this wise decision should be used for all cases of victimisation of women. The limitation off course exists as the law which closes the chances of floating the information is limited in its scope. But this was one of the main reasons that I preferred to share the ATM attack video as well. Why should a brutal attack on a woman video be shared by general public at all?  I feel it is extreme disgracing for the victim, even though this could have been considered as the right way to alert the general public about the image of the attacker by some. I ask, why not only the image of the attacker? Because the woman in the ATM attack case was not sexually harassed, no one considered sharing of the video as something which should not have been done. A sheer example of when law of the land stops its words, law of human psychology takes place.  Consider when the ATM attack victim would get to see the circulation, she or her daughter/s or her granddaughters may not feel happy about it. Would you reader feel happy to see the viral pictures of your mother/sister/daughter being attacked and lying in a pool of blood?  You may not !
        If you are the one who has posted the ATM attack video or thinking of sharing any information about the Tehelka journalist. Please do consider. Viral contents can show that you are concerned about the issue, but equally it may endanger the victim’s life, her privacy and safety.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2013), “Viral contents, safety and privacy of women””, 27thDecember,2013, published in

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Virtual women trafficking sets in : be aware

Using commercial web portals for on-line buying and selling is the new trend that is gripping India fast. For long there were questions of credibility of the on-line classifieds and e-commerce portrayals and many had complained after they were duped by such on-line classifieds. I myself had received and still receive many complaints of fraudulent promises on such web portals, awful customer care responses, delay in completion of the contract or even duping of prospective buyers by ‘vanishing sellers’  once the payment has been made. Typically there are several categories of perpetrators and basically one group of victims; namely the prospective buyers; rather there ‘were’ !  but the power of world wide web proved more than legendary criticism by jean Louis De Lolme  about the  British parliament which says “Parliament can do everything but make woman a man and a man a woman”. Numerous instances are there where World Wide Web had brought in huge surprises including declaring alive men dead, turning innocent children into porn materials and making brilliant students millionaires. But not to forget, it has also brought in virtual women trafficking; a trend that may not have gained major highlights due to erasing nature of the evidences. In the west, Craigslist was one such site which was being used for victimising women by creating the victim’s fake avatars (Halder Debarati,Examining the Scope of Indecent Representation of Women (Prevention) Act, 1986 in the Light of Cyber Victimization of Women in India (May25, 2013). National Law School Journal,Vol. 11, 2013, pp. 188-218 . Available at SSRN: as one who solicits for sex; the on-line classified site was being misused  by perpetrators who for taking revenge over jilted affair, floated women’s private address, phone numbers and sometimes their very private sexual preferences which would have known  only by the perpetrator himself. There had been instances when such advertisement had lead to rape of the victim by strangers who dropped in at the address provided by the perpetrator. Criaglist started monitoring the contribution of such kinds, especially usage of the same as a dating site when some researchers pointed out how the site was becoming a notorious choice for sexual victimisation women.
        In India for long, on-line victimisation of women had been restricted to social networking sites like Facebook and some adult dating sites. Usage of commercial web-portals for victimisation of women was not  a  ‘trend’ until recently when some one used popular on-line classified to actually advertise for  selling  a woman for a paltry sum of Rupees two thousand (see The advertisement was complete with a photograph of the woman and a corresponding name and phone number of the ‘agent’. Interestingly, the ‘agent’ was none other than another victim of identity theft who claimed that his name has been maliciously used to victimise him. The news media contacted the victim of identity theft and later the country manager of the online classified; subsequently the ad was removed. But now, consider the fate of the woman whose photograph was floated as the main subject of virtual women trafficking. May be, the photograph could have been taken from adult sites to victimise the man who had been shown as the agent; may be it is a real picture of a real victim; but the truth is, campaigning for virtual women trafficking for victimisation of women has set in and it has created a huge example for new trends of cyber crimes and on-line victimisation of women. In India human trafficking, including women trafficking is considered illegal and the Indian Penal Code offers various penal provisions to prohibit sale of women ( see pg 6 in Nair (2007), Trafficking women and children for sexual exploitation : a handbook for law enforcement agencies in India , URL: Nonetheless, these provisions are proving to be mere written laws especially when the online sites traditionally do not monitor the contributed contents. However, this particular site deserves a special applause since they had withdrawn the offensive advertisement within record time after being notified. But still then, the trend of on-line victimisation of women has taken a new path with this incident and I fear this is going to stay.
Hope my fear is proved baseless very soon.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2013), “Virtual women trafficking sets in : be aware, 10th November,2013, published in

Friday, October 25, 2013

Whose photo is it when you have a “cover photo” ?

Every year October brings in nice surprises: the weather changes, festive season starts and women feel more encouraged to stay fit to look good during the festive season. This enthusiasm makes one eager to do lots of outdoor activities and showcase the same in their social media profile cover pictures or profile pictures which would gradually become an identification mark for the profile owner; for example, I got to see beautiful nature photography, painting exhibitions, festive photos in numerous Facebook profiles, which were further shared by other specialised social media profiles meant exclusively for photography or for online painting exhibitions.  Nonetheless, these pictures may include human faces including the profile owners in their finest attires. Needless to say, cover photos or profile photos do provide a glimpse of what the user wishes to showcase to the world; I myself made a cover photo for myself which has my convocation photograph where I was receiving my Ph.d Degree from the hands of the Hon'ble Chief justice of India.   Well, this is the age of “sharing and viewing” and those who have social media profiles should expect minimum privacy when it comes to sharing their lives with their virtual friends. But does that mean that when the social media platform does not guarantee any privacy, our pictures or contents really become public properties?  Even though there are many research papers and works are available on this issue, I thought to contribute my own thought as well.
         As we all know, any social media is duty bound to provide privacy rights to the users. But at the same time, no service provider would actually allow a user to lock everything for him/herself. This defies the ultimate purpose of the social media, i.e. to connect and reconnect people. Hence every user is given options to choose privacy set-ups that a social media channel can offer. This includes self exposure, exposure of friends and exposure of others (who are not listed as ‘friends’ of the profile owner) through one user in various levels.   The most sensitive part of such exposure is definitely the photographs. When a user uploads a picture (whether a nature photography or a picture containing human images), to his social media profile, it is generally expected that he owns the photograph; very technically, he has copyright over it; but not always! There are numerous instances of ‘possessing’ over other’s photograph and using as well as misusing it through one’s social media profile. I myself got to see many such cases which unfortunately involved creation of “Fake Avatars”  (See Halder Debarati,Examining the Scope of IndecentRepresentation of Women (Prevention) Act, 1986 in the Light ofCyberVictimization of Women in India (May25, 2013). National Law School Journal,Vol. 11, 2013, pp. 188-218 . Availableat SSRN: of women with ‘possessed’ pictures. But there are instances when photos of profile owners have been ‘stolen’ and showcased in other’s profiles and such photo possessing does not actually intend to harm the reputation of the actual photo owner. This happens especially when the photograph is exhibited in open access platforms like the ‘cover photo’ of Facebook, or photo albums made intentionally open for public in either Facebook or Twitter.
 It needs to be understood that social media impliedly enters into a contract where it becomes duty bound to respect a user’s copy right. This is evident from not only the Terms that any social media asks a user to go through, but also from  the report option where you would get to see a small note at the bottom “is this your intellectual property”?  In India such sorts of mischievous activities are mostly regulated by the Copy Right Act, 1957 (which has been further amended in 2012). But usage of this law for social media photo right infringement is extremely rare. The reason could be that this Act is mostly used when the intellectual property infringement involves loss of profit.  However, I have seen many people get confused as to whether they can really claim their intellectual property right when the picture is showcased in open access platforms of social media and it had been ‘stolen’. I ask ‘why not’?  But I am very much aware that to prove a claim, a victim may have to run out of her patience especially when the social media itself may ask for the proof to show that the photograph was originally owned by the victim. But still then, it may prove worth fighting for and sharing the experience  as this will actually benefit not only the intellectual property researchers, but netizens in general.

Do let me know your views.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2013), “Whose photo is it When you have a “cover photo” ?
, 25thOctober,2013, published in

Monday, October 14, 2013

Bully in… - The Hindu

Bully in… - The Hindu
Madhumita Srinivasan of The Hindu writes on cyber bullying under the title "Bully in.....". .This extremely informative write-up carries my feedback. The particular section which carries my feedback is as follows: "You are at risk when
According to Dr. Debarati Halder, Advocate and Managing Director, Centre For Cyber Victim Counselling: “There are several pockets which can trap unaware children who wish to get logged in to get connected to the world. Two such traps are social media and chat rooms.
While most of the social media offer membership to individuals from the age of 13 and upwards, some chat rooms which are part and parcel of email services may not have this age barrier. Online abuse starts when such children grow extremely inquisitive and start participating in the discussions/posts/blogging without understanding where it is leading to.”
“Creating fake profiles using personal information and posting obscene content is one of the most common problems. Misuse of personal pictures and spreading them, and also cases of relationships abuse are also on the rise,” adds Tandon.
How it affects you
Since children are emotionally fragile, abuse of any kind will leave a deep impact on them psychologically. Dr. Halder explains: “When children become victims of bullying, their ego is hurt and they may go into deep depression. Suicidal tendency due to bullying among children is well known now. On the other hand, some children may become extremely deviant and may become bullies themselves.”
“They may even learn illegal and unethical tricks like hacking, creation of fake profiles and so on at an early age to take revenge on their bullies and then may practice this over everyone they like. For children, who unfortunately fall victim, I have noticed many of them (especially girls) becoming very withdrawn. Some have even turned to hackers to remove the offensive posts.”
I would like to share it with all my readers. This is especially necessary for girls since we have seen girls, especially older teens may become easy targets of bullying and then subsequently may fall victims of other types of cyber crimes like creation of "fake avatar", a term coined by me in my article (SeeHalder Debarati,Examining the Scope of Indecent Representation of Women (Prevention) Act, 1986 in the Light of CyberVictimization of Women in India (May 25, 2013). National Law School Journal,Vol. 11, 2013, pp. 188-218 . Available at SSRN:

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Security of women in whose hands?

It was an anxious moment for almost every citizen in the country who was waiting to see what awaits the rapists of Nirbhaya, the Delhi gang rape victim. Right on the eve of the judgement day however, I came across another news which led me to think more than I was expected to think on the gang rape verdict: the electronic personal safety device (Epsd) which is on its way specially to protect women in distress ( See . I would have forgotten the information as‘regular news’ which kindles our mind only for a minute or two had I not been  called for an interview by PuthiyaThalaimurai, a Tamil News channel, on the judgement day. The breaking news that this TV channel was airing after 2 in the afternoon obviously braced the issue of the verdict, especially the death penalty and people’s emotions related to it. I was asked about my opinion as an advocate, a woman advocate rather. The reporter, while giving his details and interviewing me, told about the 12 year old school girl in Tuticorin, who was brutally raped and then killed by the rapist almost within a week after the Delhi gang rape case happened. While I was giving my views as to what sentence can be expected in this particular rape case, I started realising how far the society has become blood thirsty for rapists. As a woman and a mother of a girl, even I myself would have wanted any one who sexually abuses or assaults another woman or a minor girl, to go through similar or even more physical pain and mental trauma that he would have caused to his victim. However, as an advocate and a legal researcher, I need to be more rational.
But an ‘EPSD’ for protecting women from sexual abusers?
 After going through hoards of news reports about the Delhi verdict and knowing how brutally the little girl in Tuticorin was killed, I could not stop thinking the ‘watch like device’ as similar to geolocator loggers or collars used for tracking migratory birds or wild animals and the women who would be wearing it, as experimental guinea pigs trapped and tracked for no fault of theirs.
I have some points to think it as anti feminist:
i.Even though the operation of it would be manual, i.e, the woman can switch on the device only when she needs to alert her people, what happens when the it gets accidentally ( or even intentionally) switched on by the  harasser if he wishes to show the harassment, disrobing or even rape of the victim to the select audience through even smarter technology ?
ii. Given the fact that laws in India are still confused about tracking a non-criminal person by private individuals including the parents, husbands or other immediate family members, would the privacy-infringement laws be amended again to include this exception? In that case, we need to be ready for the misuse of the law also.
iii. Nonetheless, our Indian society is changing. Won’t this device present another debatable issue similar to dress-code or gagging the right to use mobile phones or internet for women ( I discussed about this in one of my earlier blogs @ ?
Well, I am not the only one who is thinking in these lines. Some of the comment –contributors of the news report on the device did express similar concern.
But I must say, the device is a safety device and apparently women would be given freedom to use it or not to use it since The Constitution of India has given equal rights to women to live their own lives. Saying this, I can neither ignore the benefits of the device. Tracking of criminals through GPS system is introduced to Indian police system quite a long ago. Almost all the police head quarters and police stations including stations situated in interior parts of India are expected to stay connected to track the criminal through this; and this device can be an extended mobile version of criminal tracking system, which would be carried by women. It can be expected that in future everyone, irrespective of their gender can use it for alerting the police about the crime and the criminal.
But still then, I can’t stop thinking: has our society gone so low that it has to tie the crime detector on women (my angry soul  can’t stop myself from giving the name to our gender in great dismay ‘the sex-thing’)?
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2013), “Security of women in whose hands, 15thSeptember,2013, published in

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Protect your image, not the image destroyer

Very recently I came across the news of a victim of domestic violence who had been badly physically abused. All attempts to hide the bruises in her face were failed. She was in pain for several days before she could actually gather herself up to join the daily chores of life by her sheer will power. When some of us, her well wishers advised her to report the matter to the police immediately, she retreated. Her sole concern was to protect the family. The case seems similar to many of the domestic violence cases in India as well as in many parts of south Asia where the victim refuses to see the police in fear of losing the faith in her ‘dear ones’. The story is no different for on line abuses. Many women are constantly abused on-line by their own family members, especially doubtful husbands, or someone in whom they once had deep trust, like the ex boyfriends or the ex husbands.  In the digital space, it is extremely easy to spoil the image of the woman. Show her actual picture with dirty tag-line, morph her picture to affix her face on nude bodies, show the pictures of vagina and emboss her name on it, rape her virtually by affixing human hands on the picture of her body parts, especially breasts and lower abdomen and allure others to do the same....... these are some of the examples of abusing the image of a woman which had been discussed by many feminist researchers in their write ups including me in my paper titled “Examining the scope of Indecent Representation of Women (Prevention) Act, 1986 in the light of cyber victimisation of women in India (See Halder Debarati, Examining the Scope of Indecent Representation of Women (Prevention) Act, 1986 in the Light of CyberVictimization of Women in India (May 25, 2013). National Law School Journal,Vol. 11, 2013, pp. 188-218 . Available at SSRN: But no wonder, majority of the victims feel extremely embarrassed to visit the police. Why? The case of this particular victim of domestic abuse made me realise the truth again; the woman has to live in the society where her relatives including her father, brother or even husband or even her women folk are also staying. They may never like to be tagged as the relative of a victim of on-line abuse, especially when many still believe that on-line abuses such as these mostly occur due to the victim’s own (mis)deeds. Many victims retreat from reporting the crime in fear for loss of job and loss of reputation not for them, but for the family members including the husband in case he is the abuser himself. Some even fear for loss of reputation of the girls in the family in the marriage market. In some cases, the fear is not baseless especially when the police starts tracing the crime and haunts the offices or workplaces of the accused, who may be directly related to the victim or her family. Also, the police have almost set a trend to tag such crimes as either pornographic crimes, or obscene or sexually harassing crimes... all of which may  bring shame to the victim when she is asked about it in the typical questioning pattern set for physical crimes falling under the broad title of sexual crimes. Thanks to the confused laws, less interest of legal drafts men ,the police authorities and the criminal justice machinery in reviewing recent academic researches on the new developments of  international as well as national laws, the young and enthusiastic police  officers (who are rare in number) never get any chance to book the offences as per their own judgements and the crimes continue to add to the categories of traditionally laid down definitions, giving less chances to examine their  true characters. But unlike the physical cases of image destroying of the victim by hitting her and bruising her face, cutting her skin and flesh and permanently damaging her looks, where the accused could be arrested or the victim could be separated from the accused, in cases of on-line crimes of image destruction, the accused may remain hidden or may carry on further damages while the police carry on further investigation. This is extremely frustrating for the victim. Then comes the juggling of the jurisdiction in cases where the accused reside outside the jurisdiction of the local police. While the Criminal Procedure Code clearly empowers the police to carry on the investigation in such cases, red tapism never leaves. A married woman never wants to lose her time in such tangle especially when she has to look after her children, her job and her family. Resultant, either she herself leaves the battle ground with deep frustration which may even lead her to commit suicide, or may take up some illegal ways to remove the image quickly. The actual image destroyer enjoys his misdeeds with no repent.
But time has come when women, especially married women must take time to save their own physical images rather than saving the image destroyer. Let us hope that the courageous women may face the situation more bravely to save themselves.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2013), “Protect your image, not the image destroyer, 3rd September,2013, published in

Thursday, August 15, 2013

An Impressive Independence Day news

While the whole nation celebrated the  independence day today amidst various positive ways I found an extremely encouraging information which I intended to share with my blog readers, especially women. The Hon’ble Principle Sessions Judge of Chennai has finally  denied bail petition for an offender who dared to create a fake profile in the Facebook. No, it was not a case of typical victimisation of women through creation of fake profiles; but  it is the other way round: this youth acted as an actor in the Facebook. He impersonated the actor by taking up his screen name “Shantnu Khan” with a slight modification by adding an ‘a’ after‘t’ in the name. When the unreal Shant(a)nu Khan contacted the fans and acquaintances through the fake profile, little did any one notice about the spelling mistake.  When he finally won the confidence of his targets he posed as an actor in distress who needed monetary help to redefine his life; something typical that we get to see in Nigerian phishing cases through emails. By his appealing presence in the Facebook, he could finally gain a little fortune.(See He was arrested by the central crime branch of the police in Chennai who mainly applied S.420 of the Indian penal code which prescribes punishment for cheating and S.66 of the Information technology Act, which prescribes punishment for computer related offences which are referred in S.43 of the information technology Act. The words that are highlighted by both these provisions of the information technology Act while emphasising upon offences are ‘fraudulently’ and ‘dishonestly’. This made up actor duped some for unethical gain through these two ways and he was rightly booked under these provisions. Now note that while S.66 of the Information technology Act is a bailable offence, S.420 of the Indian penal code is a non-bailable and cognizable offence. Interestingly many times crimes booked under both these provisions may be similar in nature, but due to the drafting the laws, the traditional law prescribes stricter punishment than the new law meant for cyber crimes. But this is not a new type of  case. If the readers (especially from the Chennai region) can remember the Chennai Romeo case ( See , the similarities in the pattern of trapping the victims can be found. But in this case, the youth is intelligent enough to do a better homework. The Hon’ble judge has taken right decision in denying the bail. He actually created a good example to show how crime reporting by victims can influence the reporting agency, i.e, the police; and how proper application of the best provisions of laws can finally help the judge to decide the fate of the case.
 I have seen that many cases of victimisation of women through creation of fake profiles die premature deaths with the victim unwilling to report. Nonetheless, few cases targeting the reputation of women take a turn such as this one where S.420 of the IPC can be applied straightaway. But at the same time, it would neither be correct to say that provisions meant to safeguard online reputation including that of women are worthless laws. Needless to say, women victims can make a huge change in sentencing in such cases if they clearly narrate the whole victimisation and the police cooperate accordingly.  Belief in criminal justice system as well as awareness of the police and the victim are key elements to prevent crimes and this is no exception in cases of cyber victimisation of women. Let this 15th August reinstate the courage in women.

Happy Independence Day!
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2013), “An Impressive Independence Day news, 15th August,2013, published in

Thursday, July 11, 2013

In the name of “surveillance”

The past week had been extremely disturbing week for couple of issues: the controversial death of the Dalit boy Ilavarasan and then the Delhi Metro intimacy tape. For those, who do not know about the first case, Illavarasan a Dalit boy, loved and married Divya, who belonged to another Hindu sub-caste. The love marriage did not end happily. It created caste based tension and Divya decided to return to her mother to end the ongoing tension which started harming other people as well. The case took a critical twist with Illavarasan’s controversial death in the beginning of this July.   While this is a knee jerking example of united we try to stand but caste makes us apart, there was one more disturbing factor that was noted by the High court when the autopsy results were scrutinised. As this report suggests, the autopsy of the body of the youth was seen by many outsiders and there are possibilities that the whole process was recorded in private cell phone devices ( See Staff reporter (July 10, 2013), Experts find defects in process, published in The Hindu. URL: The report also clarified that the experts observed that this recording was done by some police constables. Shocking!  If this report is true then one can understand how much possibilities are there for these clippings to become viral in the net if not checked right now. No law permits private recording of autopsy unless such act is specially permitted for further court cases or research work. Also if this becomes viral, there is every chance that there could be wide range of violence.
I derive at this conclusion that such clipping captured by the internal mechanism system can become viral from the observation of the second case, i.e, the Delhi Metro sex tape case . 
On July 9 almost all the leading newspapers reported that  CCTV footage of couple’s intimacy in Delhi metro stations have reached the porn sites and the cyber crime cell is roped in to probe the matter( See PTI, July9, 2013, Probe ordered after CCTV footage of couples petting in Delhi metro lands in porn sites. URL: CCTV footage of protected areas  in porn sites ? Another knee jerking reality that internal system has been unauthorisedly accessed to separate such ‘private moments’ from other regular scenes in the metro stations. It is indeed true that metro stations may have areas which are not illuminated properly and CCTV is essential to check any unsocial activities that may occur in public places including such darker places.  But look at the other side of protective technical system which must have been mishandled by some one who intentionally monitored the footage to take out only these clippings. Government surveillance system has now brought huge embarrassment for these young couples. More so, it would obviously be the woman who would be focussed more than the man in the porn sites.  there are now huge debates going around questioning the behaviour of the young people in public places, government surveillance mechanisms and the law’s double edged effects.  CCTV surveillance has helped to detect many crimes, but this would be one of the finest examples as how the mechanism can be affected internally to defy the surveillance law’s meaningful purposes. Further, I must tell that the victims are lucky as the footage is now under investigation after the Delhi metro rail corporation immediately stepped in for damage control. But imagine the fate of other victims who find their awkward pictures/clippings in porn sites due to intentional mishandling of the data received from internal surveillance mechanism in public places including hotels, shops etc, and have to run from pillar to post to get justice. I was extremely shocked to find that many city police websites do not give proper contact details of cyber crime cells where the victim can physically go and report the problem. Emails and phone numbers given there are mostly non-operative and the victim often gets no response.

Time has come that the officials must be saviours and not another element to escalate the crime.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2013), “In the name of “surveillance”, 11th July,2013, published in

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Banning the websites for shunning porn

It comes no surprise to me when I read the news about Department of Telecommunication’s order to put a blanket ban on 39 websites which are used to create or distribute porn materials (See . This was rather expected after so much hype through public interest litigations, discussions and debates over the issue of websites catering the need for porn. One more issue which motivated me to presume this was the introduction of criminal law amendment act, 2013 which has brought in not only anti-stalking regulation (solely for women) but also anti-voyeurism legislation. The age of consent issue for rape raised lot of debates which further put this ‘old wine in new bottle’ legislation in boiling debates............As can be guessed, this was more than expected.
But do I really support this blanket ban? Perhaps yes. The news that I got to read exhibits a line which is as follows “.............blanket ban on websites that allow users to share pornographic content”. While supporting the ban I am looking not at the issue of banning of websites, but at the issue of preventing the users. This ban, if stands the future debates and waves of legal criticisms, can actually prove positively historic. It would actually prevent victimisation of women in the long run in the World Wide Web by some vindictive users. In my latest publication titled “Examining the scope of Indecent Representation of Women (Prevention) Act, 1986 in the light of cyber victimisation of women in India” published in National Law School Journal (2013) 11NLSJ , pgs 188-218 ( the paper can be accessed @ I have elaborately discussed about such vindictive usage of websites by individuals. Such users would be automatically prevented from uploading offensive contents in these websites.  This would further resolve the issue of victim-website (non)cooperation issues in such matters. Indeed, this is a boon for so many women victims who had lost hope for any kind of cooperation from the US hosted websites and who feel extremely reluctant to visit the police.
But again, my rational brain refuses to believe in such kinds of flimsy bans. Like so many other researchers, I have my own share on thoughts regarding pornography. I argued in my above mentioned publication that “the concepts of obscenity and pornography overlap with each other and the shadow of obscenity law still shrouded the indecency law” (See pg 200 in Debarati Halder(2013), Examining the scope of Indecent Representation of Women (Prevention) Act, 1986 in the light of cyber victimisation of women in India” published in National Law School Journal (2013) 11NLSJ , pgs 188-218). Which materials would be considered as ‘pornographic’?  .........the present law probably has no answer. Which are the websites that would fall in the scope of this ban? one actually can answer because sites like Facebook are also used to upload materials which can fall in the category of pornography. Further, the anonymous character of users would stand as a towering problem while detecting privately hosted websites. One site deletion may not prevent creation of another. How many sites would be banned then?  All these questions may need to be answered before taking up a serious step towards implementing the ban.

Somehow I am having this ghastly feeling that adult pornography is there to stay in India and vindictive users would outsmart the government attempts to stop them. Hope I would be proved wrong.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2013), “Banning the websites for shunning porn, 26th June,2013, published in

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Too much exposed too less to expect

When an individual gets a virtual  home through his/her profile in the social networking sites it is most expected that he/she will open the windows to showcase his/her own self. While this can be an extremely positive gesture to let people know about oneself and market oneself to be one of the potentials, this can be extremely dangerous as well. As the US report on the internet and computing trend suggests, Indians are the second largest sharers of personal information after Saudi Arabians( See, I partly justify it with my own observations in the internet. Many women in India tend to reveal personal information in online pockets including social networking sites, groups, news forums etc. I was one such exposure when I first entered this big (bad) World Wide Web. The typical ways may include revealing residential address, phone numbers, school names, pet names to even secret bashes. Not to mention, the regular updates themselves may make private life revealed for many women. I had this chat friend couple of year’s back, who insisted to know what I eat in the breakfast, what I wear for formal gatherings and why do I wear them. Slowly, I understood that I was feeding this particular individual more than what is needed. Well, I had sensed danger. But not many can really sense it. At the best, many women protect their information by making their profiles open for ‘friends’. But what these women may not understand is, these ‘friends’ are neither ‘anti-chambers’ from where information can not be leaked.
        Similarly, this sharing tendency can prove beneficial for online phishing teams who can easily track out the potential victim. It needs to be remembered that women are equally becoming victims of phishing as men and may be this may be one of the reasons. Off course, how can one forget about other typical online crimes which happen mostly to women like stalking, creation of defamatory profiles etc ? All of these may be results of too much sharing.
        But then what can be the solution? While opening the windows, you can not close your doors and expect the ‘unwanted’ to show up any-time. Only thing is, you need to be prepared to face the unwanted and learn from your mistakes. I have some wonderful friends who had learnt from their past experiences due to too much sharing; some have stopped frequent updating, some preferred to maintain offline connections than carrying on virtual connections. What I have learnt from them is, the more you expose yourself, the less you should expect from privacy shields; for nothing can protect your privacy when you yourself have opened doors to let the world know what they should not have known about you.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2013), “Too much exposed too less to expect
, 5th June,2013, published in

Monday, May 13, 2013

The police and S.66A again......


It is time for politicians and their civilian aides to brush up the war of words again; the general election knocks at the door and everyone is up to exercise the Rights that actually pillar the core philosophy of democracy. In this course, many Right to free speech chilling laws get tested and the independence of the judiciary is proved again and again. The time has come back with yet another law, S.66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000(amended in 2008), which restricts sending offending messages through communication devices in India. This time it is a woman lawyer and human rights activist who is caught in the web world for her exercise of free speech rights under S.66A. While The Hindu reported that the accused activist had been sent a legal notice by the complainant and she had also replied to it, I could not ascertain from the news reports whether this accused was given any further chance to prove herself not guilty, as she was reportedly arrested on a police complaint on the same ground by the complainant and sent to judicial custody (See S.Murali, FB posting on T.N.  Governor lands PUCL activist in custody (May14, 2013). Published in The Hindu, pg 1). It is unfortunate to note that this is the same provision which  has been used to arrest the person who had used apparently ‘offensive’, ‘derogatory’ remarks about politicians; the first reported case being  that of a Professor in Kolkata for allegedly distributing cartoons ridiculing  West Bengal chief minister, the second being the case of Palghar girls Facebook case, the third being the case of arrest of  two  Air India employees for their alleged derogatory posts about politicians including the Prime minister of India, the fourth being the case of Twitter posts by a Pondicherry based individual commenting about politician and union minister P. Chidambaram’s son ( see for chronology India's dilemma continues as highlighted by Subhajit Basu. . Supporters of Free speech demanded the amendment of S.66A due to such thought less misuse of the provision. But at the same time, it has also been understood that the law has some potentials to restrict offensive, unwanted, derogatory speech when it comes harassment of true victims, especially women. I am one of the supporters of S.66A due to it’s this very quality. But consider the statement of the Twitter post accused Ravi, who argued “they could have sent me lawyer’s notice or investigated the complaint before taking action” (see PrasadKrishna, Post and be Damned (Nov 19, 2012), published in This statement holds the key to quiz the action of the complainants who drove the police to take action in all these cases. S. 66A in its starting phrase in clause (b) puts a water-mark caution by stating that “any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing....”; the provision thus clearly shifts the burden of proof on the person who posts the information and by this the ‘sender’ becomes protected by due process of law. Time and again, this important factor in the apparently controversial S.66A has been over looked by those who wished to use the State to gag the right to free speech without following proper process established by legal rules. Unfortunately, such persons had been successful due to their heavily influential positions and less aware police force. This has been proved in the Palghar Facebook case (see
It is ironical to note the common man’s observation in this regard; in the comment section of the NDTV news website(see where this report is published, many persons have expressed their anguish over how the police and the law are up to help the politicians and not the ordinary civilians who may become victims of harassing, abusive, defamatory posts. True!  Such quick reaction from the police is still a distant dream for many victims, majority of who are women. It is further ironical to note that while instantly the posts in the above cases are taken down or the concerned social media are contacted to take down the offensive information, many women victims in actual on-line defamatory cases continue to languish due to slow process of investigation. It needs to be remembered that Police should be used as a machinery to prevent imminent danger to really needy victims and not as a tool to stop the due process of laws by those who can afford to roll it. Understandably costs of hiring a lawyer and sending notice to the alleged harasser may not be affordable for many women who may be financially dependent  on the male members of the family ( I observed this in my presentation in Sweden Criminology Symposium in 2012. The excerpts of my findings are compiled by Johanna Hagstedt, in “Risk behaviours increase exposure to cyber crime” (October 5, 2012) Available @ This makes the police the last hope for the victims. Let us hope that the supremacy of the fair process of laws is established again and the society understands the actual role of the police.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/write-up/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2013), “The police and S.66A again......” 14th May, 2013, published in 

Monday, April 15, 2013

No relief for women from stalking and morphing


Not very long ago, India happily rejoiced the birth of first ever cyber stalking law and anti- voyeurism which was finally re framed to look after only women. The law is a part of anti-sexual crimes provisions that were introduced through Verma Committee report after the brutal gang rape in Delhi last December. But could law really help to stop atrocities against women especially when the harassment is carried out through digital media?  Women victims often compliant of mobile phone harassment. This includes repeated calls, SMSs, blank calls, threatening calls and even sending lewd MMSs. Women celebs are the worst targeted victims. Trolls, fans, men claiming to be exs.....the list is exhausting, but ask the women celebs and they will positively agree that people belonging to these categories do disturb them not only through various social networking sites, but also via mobile phones. Some daring women did face it bravely. The recent one in the list is Mona of jassi jaisi koi nahi who refused to take the MMS leak incidence lightly. Hopefully the perpetrator would be nabbed and the link would be deactivated soon. But it did have a damaging effect already. She is portrayed the way which she is not actually. Mona represents those women who are regularly targeted for defamation in the wider platform called World Wide Web. I researched on this and found out that in India, this is the easiest way to stop a prospective marriage alliance or a job portfolio for a woman ( I had presented paper on this in Sweden Criminology Symposium in 2012. The excerpts of my findings are compiled by  Johanna Hagstedt, in “ Risk behaviours increase exposure to cyber crime” (October 5, 2012) Available @  Unfortunately not many women prefer to be as brave as Mona and her predecessors for reporting the crime. The reason is largely fear of exposure of privacy. We do get to see so many news reports about rape and acid attack. Defamation through this channel is no less severe. No woman wants to be a virtual prostitute who would be ‘enjoyed’ by millions. It can turn women victim suicidal too; the recent example is the suicide of Rehtah Parsons of Nova Scotia.
          But dont think that this is the only form of victimisation that haunts the women the most. Bangalore Mirror on April 8, 2013 carried out a brief news which spoke about stalking of Jaya Bachchan, the effervescent actor of yesteryears and present day Rajya Sabha MP . The report claimed that Mrs. Bachchan received continuous calls from a Dubai based number. The man claimed to be an ardent fan of Mrs. Bachchan. Now note that this news came up after the much fussed about “anti-rape Bill” (which also included anti-stalking law) was introduced in India and the police and criminal justice machinery was promising to take strict action if the crime falls under any of the categories that this new provision recognises.  The report however claimed that Jaya Bachchan probably could not get instant justice as the investigation revealed that the call was made from out of India and the local police could not offer much help(Bangalore Mirror, 8th April). Jaya Bachchan again represents that sect of women victims who are turned down by the local police due to poor infrastructure and lack of understanding.  The police need not have looked at the new provision which still awaits to be functional; but we do have S.66A of the Information Technology Act, which many eminent lawyers  pointed out, has a potential to be used as an anti –stalking law and which has extra-territorial effect by virtue of the I.T. Act provisions.  In some of my media interviews I did support the existence of S.66A especially for causes of women .I still support it. But it  is being misused for wrong reasons.  Look at the irony; no one understood the value of a good law which has been misused and now termed as “draconian law”.However, I hope by now the case is solved and justice has been done.
Indeed, women need patience for better understanding of the whole scenario by police and criminal justice machinery. But the waiting time is painful, disgraceful and dangerous. Let us hope that the waiting period gets over soon. My salute to you brave women who had endured such humiliation but still carrying on with life.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2013), “No relief for women from stalking and morphing” 15th April ,2013, published in

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A new era with the Criminal Law Ordinance Bill, 2013? Can women really claim to be safe?


Since the news of cabinet nod for the criminal law amendment ordinance Bill, 2013 has been aired by media channels this afternoon, so many of us women have started feeling “secured”. We can now expect to have a formal law which not only addresses stringent punishment for rape, but also finally recognised several crimes like stalking, voyeurism, acid attack etc. The list does not end here; as I mentioned in my invited presentation in the national women’s day seminar at Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Youth Development on 8th March, this law would also recognise an ancient crime against women, namely ‘publicly disrobing a woman’. I wonder why this took such a long time to be recognised as a serious crime when the first “reported” victim was none other than Draupadi, the Pandava queen in the mythological epic the Mahabharat. Late but still, we got the law, which in future can expect more research. Right now, many news channels are running live shows on debates over the consent-age for sex. The new law would lower the age of consent for sex to 16. While some are unhappy, some are strongly advising for starting sex-education in schools.
          Analytically, the issues that are addressed in the criminal law ordinance Bill, 2013 are all interwoven. Rape, stalking, acid-attack, disrobing, voyeurism, sexual assault are some of the main issues which come in the first category of crimes that can be done to women other than regular crimes that can be covered under the category of domestic violence. What interests me is, the first category of crimes may directly get connected with a larger ambit of crime, namely cyber crime against women. In my research, as well as in my experience as a counsellor for cyber crime victims I have time and again realised this.  In my invited lecture, I had put a question as to whether this Verma committee report generated criminal law ordinance bill would be a “false promise or a true empowerment of women”? The reasons for my assumption are many folded; a new law can not necessarily stop crimes all together immediately. Given with this, the attitude of the society towards women will neither change within the minute the Bill gets green signal from the cabinet. What ails me more is the lowering of the age of the consent for sex. Provision on voyeurism carries a strong   prohibitory message against any wrong of such nature even if the girl had consented for sex or capturing images of private parts. But did anyone think of women and girls from semi –urban and rural Indian societies? How many schools and colleges run sex education in these places? How many parents would be interested to let their children learn the basics of sexual behaviours from trained counsellors?  As some of the activists were making their points, I support their view on the ground that this might in the other way encourage child marriages. This might also increase the contribution rate to child –pornography industry. Numerous interviews from college students aired by the news channels established one fact: underage individuals including matured teens, young teens and young adult boys and girls do visit porn-sites to satisfy their inquisitiveness to know more about the “forbidden” words ‘SEX’. Undoubtedly, this whole process may include several cases of breach of privacy for women including stalking, voyeurism, disrobing etc, which may perpetually remain out of the boundary of  the existing  as well new laws due to the ‘now on-now off’ nature of the internet technology.
Coming to the basic realities, I wonder how many police officers, lawyers and judges would go ahead with victim’s plea for booking the offences under stalking, voyeurism etc, when many police stations in non-metro cities are not even aware what these terms may mean and (even if they know) how to deal with it. Not to be forgotten that Indian Penal Code is not an independent provision when it comes to these crimes. It needs strong supports of equally focussed Criminal procedure code, Indian Evidence Act and off course the Information Technology Act. Nonetheless, some provisions of these legal codes are sceptical enough to provide good justice to women victims of cyber crimes. I enjoyed some of the interviews of ordinary civil society members, who forced that the education must begin at home for boys and girls. Time and again the need for such awareness creation is felt by people at large. I mentioned in the last segment of my presentation in the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Youth Development that such sorts of awareness camps must be made necessary for  all sects of the society right from the grass roots level civil society member till the  civil servants including the police, the members of judiciary including lawyers. It is only then that people can exchange their problems and find general solutions. Let us hope ......let us work together.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2013), “A new era with the Criminal Law Ordinance Bill, 2013? Can women really claim to be safe?”15th March, 2013, published in

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The myths and some hard realities


Last week I was invited to conduct a session in the workshop on violence against women which was hosted by Department of criminology and criminal justice sciences, ManonManium Sundaranar University, Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu. I didn’t expect such a large gathering of students (mostly girls) for my own session which was on online violence because many of these students hardly frequent Facebook ( I did a small research on it) and some how believe that they are immuned from any sorts of victimisation that I mentioned in my book “Cyber crime and the Victimization of Women: Laws, Rights, and Regulations. Hershey, PA, USA: IGI Global. ISBN: 978-1-60960-830-9 
My first job was to break their myth. When I was doing my home work for the session, I came across good amount of materials which advocated that these girls were not the only ones who believed in this myth. There are some myths which many girls and their families in India feel to be true. I am going to showcase some of these myths and  break them  today:
 Myth no.1: I don’t have a Facebook account. Hence no one can make a dirty fake image of mine.
Reality: wrong! The perpetrator can still make a fake image of yours and float it in the Facebook if he has your basic information like your institution, your name or your residential address if he really wishes to. He may not even need your picture!

Myth no.2:  Facebook is dangerous because people may use it to actually victimize me.
Reality: nonsense! Know the safety rules and how to use it properly. It can turn into a huge resource for good.

Myth no.3: If I frequent the net, I will become a beloved for the hackers.
Reality: Well, stop being paranoid. Do not be ‘open’ to forcefully close your windows. Share only limited information and pick up a habit of changing your passwords, security question and secondary email address every fortnight. Choose good sites to get useful information.

Myth no.4 : Cell phones are causes for rape, elopement and love marriage
 Reality: really? Then why these issues keep coming back since pre-cell-phone era in India? Cell-phones are mediums of communication in the same way (obviously better versions) as were hand written letters and landline phones. Learn yourself and teach your children to use it for good communication and not for creating terrifying sensational news headlines.

Myth no.5: a girl should never be allowed to access internet including emails and popular social networking sites and cell phones unless she is married and in safe custody of her husband.
Reality: absolutely ridiculous thinking! Girls must be trained about good communication and bad communication in the digital communication technology. This will make them confident and reach the emergency services without anyone’s help.

Myth no.6: men are always dangerous when with camera devices
Reality:  Some men who are unaware of cyber etiquettes should be blamed for creating bad examples. But not all men are equal. Responsible men never misuse their devices.

Unfortunately the recent incidences of rape and sudden increase in the media report on sexual assault of women in India  made majority of women as well as their families extremely insecure. Added with it, the hard realities that misuse of smart phones and popular social networking sites do damage the reputation of women and their families have actually strengthened the belief in the unreal myths. The extreme results can be seen in the ridiculous actions of the village heads in banning cell-phones for girls in many villages in India. The workshop ended with a strong note from a wonderful woman professor who emphasized that education and awareness can reduce the violence against women. True. It stands true for online violence against women also. Learn how to use the modern digital devices for good and make the society a better one.

Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2013), “The myths and some hard realities”, 3rd February,2013, published in