Thursday, November 26, 2015

How we were able to remove Facebook groups victimising women through creating "Fake Avatars": A success story

While 25th November is celebrated as international day for Elimination of all forms of discrimination of women, I got to see the internet being flooded with “orange the world” messages. This is the particular term taken up by the United Nations to spread awareness about elimination of violence against women and inspired by UN, many stakeholders use #Orangetheworld to express their concern, share experiences and vows to fight against all forms of violence against women. I follow the rest here. I have never opted for any particular app to show my solidarity with any cause including that of Nirbhaya rape case when many men and women opted for showing black spot in their profile picture, judgements on 3rd gender case which motivated many to opt for rainbow coloured profile or even the recent Paris attack when many opted for French flag colour. This year, when the UN first started their #orangetheworld campaign, the social media spread the colour. I changed both my Facebook and Twitter profiles to stand as one of the millions of ambassadors of the campaign. But did the Convention on elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, which advocates to stop violence against women, really prove beneficial to women especially for online violence cases? We need to consider the issue again and again. 
Couple of days ago a responsible citizen contacted me showing some Facebook links. These were of groups where adult women’s photos were randomly selected, posted and they were made to be “fake avatars” by adding extremely vulgar, indecent sexually explicit comments. These women were picked up mainly because they looked beautiful and had attractive physical structures which were enough to motivate these perverts. Some photos indicated that they may have been parts of promotional photos of television serials or modelling contracts; some were taken from beauty pageants as well. I was not contacted by any women or any of these victims or any women’s group.  The person who alerted me was a man and I salute him. When he came across these groups, he tried to report the groups, the images and the posts attached to the images which actually made these photographs typical fake avatars, rather sex-items. Facebook did not take any action. The main reason for this was, these victims were not children and Facebook did not recognise these posts as offensive. Here I must recall my meeting with child right activists, women’s right activists and transgender right activists at the meeting on Porn Panic Ban conference organised by Point of View and Internet Democracy last month at Delhi.  I was invited to speak about indecent representation of women on internet and I shared information about my work. I used this opportunity to learn about other’s experiences as well.  I got to know more details about the recent sensational case of Manikanta Prabhu, who was arrested for creating Facebook group with images of children and posting violent, sexually explicit messages about these children. This case and the case that I recently dealt with, are quite similar with only one difference: in my case, the victims are adults and in the other, victims were children. The noted child right activist who was incidental in moving the courts and making the accused get arrested in the later case, told me that Facebook refused to recognise the harmful language that were being posted targeting these children because these were mostly in vernacular language. The activist had rightly approached the court against such action of the Facebook.  While dealing with the case relating to adult women, I took note of the experience shared by the activist and mobilised support to report these groups as Facebook may respond to larger volume of reports. However, our  collective attempt remained unsuccessful.
It was only later that Facebook officials responded to my reports and mails and made me understand how to report such indecent representation. While from my side, such groups and posts were reported as 'harassing', seeing the images and the language of the posts, the post reporters who came up to support me, reported the same to Facebook as ‘nudity’. But ‘Nudity’ may have a completely different meaning as per Facebook ‘offence vocabulary’. Here lies the difference between Indian understanding of the term nudity and digital technological as well as western understanding of the term nudity. As such, the volume of the report grew basing on reports on 'nudity' and not 'harassment'. As the officer from Facebook had told, these posts which present indecency in their overall presentation must be reported as ‘harassing’.  I feel extremely happy to say that finally these groups as well as the offending comments were restricted and were taken off by Facebook. This would not have happened unless Facebook considered my reports and again, renewed reports. This should be therefore noted that while Facebook or any other social media may not respond to reports positively, we need to understand the offence- related perspectives of the social media as well. However, it is an obvious fact that social media including Facebook and Twitter need to improve their own understandings and policies in such issues.  When we speak of ending violence against women in all forms, we need to understand that all stakeholders must act together to bring out a fruitful result.  I am anticipating that such groups may resurface on Facebook again because Facebook or any social media in that case, does not and cannot bar any individual from coming back to create another new identity with yet another set of false information.
Let us be prepared to fight such online harassment against women in a positive way.  
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. (2015), “How we were able to remove Facebook groups victimising women through creating fake avatars: A success story
, 26-11-2015, published in

Friday, November 6, 2015

Porn panic: how festive-dressing styles become responsible

Come autumn and it is the festive season every where in India.  Daily soaps are regularly interrupted by new advertisements about every usable stuff and the fashion magazines  get flooded by what a teenager should wear, how a woman should carry her saree or in what attire a man should look most ‘desirable’ to women. Nonetheless, each of the States in India have their own dressing style, but when it comes to metro style and casuals, especially for festivals, girls and boys, men and women never disappoint style makers of Bollywood and the Mumbai serials. This Durga puja was a special one for me as I got to see Kolkata in Durga Puja after a long time. The city has not changed its traditions, but digital habits of people have. Visitors to puja pandals , especially young adults visit the pandals not for seeing the different themes or idols, but for taking selfies with “Durga and her children”.  Too many flashes, ‘click’ sounds of camera phones  do make a disturbance for those who want to enjoy the Puja in its real meaning. With the changing of the time, these were bound to happen. But what worries me is the gross violation of privacy while clicking selfies, doulfies (couple-selfie) or even clicking of the general Puja  pandals.  In earlier days, capturing images in the Puja pandals was treated as ‘eve teasing’ if someone intentionally clicked images of girls and women by continuously  disturbing them, making them to look at the photographer  without getting their permission and against their will (to be photographed). Even though this had proved to be dangerous for many girls and women, their harassment would not have been as ‘large scale’ as it may be now. It is because not only the girls and women can be clicked anywhere, in any position, their images can travel to many persons, many unwanted sites and to many unwanted persons within minutes. The hard truth is, even the selfie taker girls and women may also be victimised if their selfies land in unwanted places on internet.
 In this connection, I must mention about the conference on Porn, Panic, Ban held at Delhi on 28th and 29th October, organised jointly by Point of View and Internet Democracy project. I was invited as a resource person and speaker to speak on indecent representation of women on internet. My lecture was largely based on my article titled “Examining the scope of IndecentRepresentation of Women (prevention) Act in the light of cyber victimization inIndia”. In this conference, I and other speakers raised our concern regarding voyeurism. Precisely, in any public festival, women and girls may be the chosen targets for such voyeurs who have mania for clicking women and girls from odd angels. These images are either uploaded in the social networking sites for personal sexual gratification, creation of ‘sex-groups’, or even revenge porn.  We do know how a couple  of months back, the images of children clicked and uploaded on Facebook had created a vicious network of people who turned these young children into ‘sex-items’ for them on Facebook . The photographs of these children were also clicked in public places. Saying this I want to emphasise on the fact that everyone, especially women and girls in the present age must be cautious about their safety not only in the physical world, but also on internet.  In my previous article titled “Online Victimization of Andaman Jarawa Tribal Women: AnAnalysis of the ‘Human Safari’ YouTube Videos (2012) and its Effects.” Which was published in British Journal of Criminology in 2014, I had shown how absence of proper laws prohibiting photography in public places enhance the possibilities of online victimisation of women more. Same opinion goes for young girls and boys as well.
The festival dressing styles for women and girls not only encourage the fashion makers to decide for the next style statements, but also encourage the perpetrators to get armed with cell phone cameras to ‘capture’ their prey for their own corrupted minds.  It may be impossible to think about curtailing private rights to capture images at Puja pandals or any festival gatherings, but this becomes a necessary need for saving women from being indecently represented on internet. Along with that, I agree with some concerned police officers who are of the view that neither men nor women or children should opt for those attire, which not only make themselves feel uncomfortable, but also may make them victims of unwanted harassment.   Plainly speaking, public places ( except where it is designated to be a bathing place), should not be considered as platforms to experiment attires or style statements which may attract unwanted harassment. It needs to be understood that while one may dress according to one’s own choice, one can not expect everyone to have same views about him/her in his/her chosen attire. While its true that perpetrators and perverts may target women and girls and even men in any attire, but still then, in my own experience I have seen that perverts do target specific people, who in their view is the 'sexiest'. True, its their problem and not ours.  
 Let me explain this with an example from my own childhood. At a wedding we got to see a famous movie star who came in attire which was the latest fashion statement at the early 90’s. He wore a see-through shirt. While he ( note that this particular person is a man and not a woman) managed to attract the attention of every young people who loved watching him on screen, there were people who were not exposed to such see through garments in real life. The popular actor did also managed to hear one such person shouting at others ‘look the man is wearing plastic sheet to show off his hairy chest and plump midriff’ . It was truly a hilarious moment for many of us youngsters who were ‘forced’ to look at the actor once again and scrutinise his body structure. But remember, the late 80’s and early 90’s did not have cell phone cameras and smart phones and hence his picture in his latest style did not become viral in the other way with the odd comment ‘pasted’ to his picture.  But this can happen now. Nonetheless, if this happens to anyone now, only the true victims would know what the pain would be like.  Social media would not take down such fake avatar with nasty comments if the victim is an adult, because such posts would obviously carry the question of First Amendment rights versus right against being victimised by indecent representation; clouds may take such images and the comments to numerous unwanted sites and it would become literally impossible for the victim to remove image of hers in her own favourite attire which may have become ‘hot favourite’ for others for sexual gratification. For this women and girls need to be more aware. No, my concern is not for making women and girls feel that they should not opt for uncomfortable dresses in the name of fashion only; my concern is for women team among the organisers. Stand up for protesting any violation of rights of women and girls and this could be done when women members in the Puja organising committees or volunteers from civil society members take active steps for spreading the awareness against voyeuristic activities. 
 With Kali Puja and Diwali approaching, the government, the police and also the puja organisers and civil society at large must decide to take such steps which may create awareness among people to prevent such sorts of victimisation of people. 
  • Children, do not click unwanted photos of others, because this may violate other’s privacy. 
  • Young adults, restrain from using your cellphone cameras as ‘spy-cam’, because if you are capturing somebody secretly, remember, you are not only violating other’s rights, but some one may also do the same to you and you may have to face  legal actions and harassments as well. 
  • Especially to girls and women: beware while taking selfies and storing it in the clouds or sharing it with others. You may never know how your favourite selfie can become an item for adult sites and an indecent representation of yourself.

Wish you all a very happy and safe Diwali.

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. (2015), Porn panic: how festive- dressin styles become responsible, 06-11-2015, published in

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Cyber misogyny of female journalists

When the image of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian boy who was found lying dead on a sea shore in Turkey surfaced on internet, social media including Twitter were flooded with posts expressing concerns for war refugees.  One of the worst causes of destruction of human civilisation is definitely the war. When as a young student I used to read about World Wars, I used to believe that wars are parts of history and this would never occur in modern age. But my childish thoughts were smashed with growing up years when I learnt that wars in different forms still exist and they are more devastating than before.  The television channels used to show live broadcasting of soldiers preparing for counter attack in borders and like many other young women I often used to think that such reporting are done by men. But I was proved wrong. Be it  Barkha Dutt’s reporting on Kargil war between India and Pakistan  or her coverage of 2008 Taaj attack in Mumbai , like many other girls, we knew Barkha as a reporter meant to cover risky areas. Remember Maya Mirchandani , the reporter who was one of the last to cover Sri Lankar President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s campaign rally when the Kumaratunga was hurt due to bomb explosion ? Following female journalists like Barkha or Maya, many female journalists came up to take this venture of reporting war crimes, political hooliganism, scams etc literally risking their lives.  Among these brave women brigade, I have my own cousins who have also suffered physical injuries in the course of their duties.
But with the advent of digital communication technology, attacks on women journalists have become more organised, personal and also patterned.  Sagarika Ghosh, one of the senior most women journalists in India was one of the worst victims of Twitter trolls.  In my BBC interview ( regarding attacks on women on social media I expressed my anguish over the issue of lack of empathy and sympathy from the part of criminal justice machinery to the female victims, especially in case of trolling or bullying, even if they are celebrities . Undoubtedly, this is a major cause which motivates the perpetrators to abuse such women.   In my recent publication titled “A retrospective analysis of S.66A: Could S.66A of the Information Technology Act be reconsidered for regulating “bad talk” in the internet?” Published in Indian Student Law Review (ISLR), 2015(1), pp 98-128, I took up Sagarika’s case  as a prime example as how women may be victimised online  irrespective of their position in the society. They may also be targeted by misogynist posts including online sexual abuse.  The reasons may vary from professional jealousy from own colleagues, workplace harassment to even dislike by members of particular group or organisation, who may motivate supporters to individually attack the women concerned online.  The very recent case of the Delhi Journalist Swati Chaturvedi, who became a victim of  sexist trolling allegedly by another senior journalist  may be seen as a good example in this case(  But it would be wrong to presume that such atrocities happen only in India.  Consider the case of Sharmila Seyyid, a SriLanka based war crime reporter; because of her work, she was attacked online and once Twitter and other social media were also used to spread the news of her death and the morphed picture which showed her raped. She was very much alive but these tricks were taken up to send her death threats and make her family feel extremely insecure about her life (See But she is not the only one Sri Lankan female reporter to be victimised online. Another Sri Lankan war crime reporter named Dilshy Banu, who is also the writer of four books, was also attacked online. Dilshy, unlike other women was not trolled in the social media. But whenever anyone searches her name with the key words of her name, the search engine gets flooded with web links of pornographic sites which has her name with a slight change in the spelling. Dilshy contacted me for help and permitted me to use her case study.  It is unfortunate that similar to many other women journalists, Dilshy’s name has been added to vicious misogynist posts on internet and these web links may stay for a long time like those ugly posts targeting other women journalists, which are still floating in some sites, unless search engines themselves pull down those web links. on a positive side,the number of such links showing porn contents which are tagged with Dilshy's name are reducing. But the process is slow. But as may be seen, such act of pulling down of misogynist posts needs the cooperation not only from the NGOs, but also from the criminal justice machinery where the victim should report the crime for getting a legal recognition of the offence, the search engines as the intermediaries and of course the general public who may help these brave women by ‘positive Google bombing’.  It is understandable that like India, many other south Asian countries including Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan etc may not have well developed laws to prevent cyber misogyny targeting women; and even if they do, the foreign based intermediaries may need to work more cooperatively to help prevent such sorts of victimisation since the viral nature of the offensive posts may  make the individual stake holders almost impossible to erase them completely.  It is unfortunate to note that this may be one of the reasons that more orthodox countries including Iran etc, periodically block many websites including Google or may even create prohibitory sanctions for using internet.  
It is understandable that all of us have freedom of speech and expression and as I mentioned in my article on S.66A, the courts, not only in India, but all over the world, are slowly expanding the scope of free speech guarantee.  The latest example is obviously the Elonis decision in the US on which I wrote my blog @ . But that does not mean that people can take internet or digital communication technology to continue attack on women, including journalists.  
Let us join hands to stop online victimisation of women irrespective of jurisdiction.
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. (2015), “Cyber misogyny of female journalists”, 9th September, 2015, published in

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The great debate on porn-ban: my views

August, 2015 started with some not so surprising news with the government of India banning around 800 websites who were allegedly having porn contents, and then again relaxing the ban. The government clarified that now the ban would be strictly for those websites who distribute child porn materials. Finally the Supreme Court of India came down with its unique observation that neither the government, nor the courts can dictate what to do for adults who watch porn contents within the four walls of their own houses.  This is indeed a unique observation from the Supreme court especially from the perspective of privacy rights of adults. Debates ran in several media including the electronic media regarding banning the porn sites, which directly hit a crucial privacy right: right to watch contents within the four corners of one’s own home. I was asked by some regarding views. Yes. I support banning porn sites. But only when, the websites have failed to stick to their due diligence policies. Regarding whether individuals should be allowed to view porn contents in private: I would still say, No they should not be if the contents are violate  laws. I say this, because if the courts make it punishable to watch every porn content at home, then millions including you and me would be indicted irrespective of why we got to watch it. A very simple example: how many of you had received gang rape videos asking for identifying the accused? If you have watched it even for a few seconds and circulated the same, then tell me, why and how the content stands apart from contents which may be categorised as porn contents which violate basic human rights? If such video/s came to you via WhatsApp or Facebook , would you consider asking the government to ban it ? In one of the conferences I expressed my concern in this regard and urged every one present in the conference to not to circulate to any friend/s, groups etc except to the police any such videos even to identify the accused. Nonetheless, I was heavily criticised.
          India had probably world’s first civilisation where watching erotica or creating erotica by way of sculptures and documenting about erotica were considered absolutely legal .but neither Kamasutra, the ancient book on erotica, nor any erotic sculpture advocated for abusing  any living being including men, women and children and even animals for driving sexual pleasure. With the advent of time and technology, human psychology in regard to consumption of erotica faced a drastic change. With colonial rules, came the period where slaves were used in inhuman ways for deriving sexual pleasure. I have documented some of such incidences in my article titled “Online Victimization of Andaman Jarawa Tribal Women: An Analysis of the ‘Human Safari’ YouTube Videos (2012) and its Effects”( Halder D., & Jaishankar, K. (2014), British Journal of Criminology, 54(4), 673-688. (Impact factor 1.556). DOI: 10.1093/bjc/azu026.) With this, the historians, sociologists, legal researchers and criminologists could frame up how human being were abused  for sexual pleasure, which were ethical and legal for some and unethical and illegal for many. Came the era of cinemas and televisions and the production/distribution of the erotica contents became even easier. There were cinemas with “A” signs which were produced only to cater the needs of adults. But in no time these movies found their ways to personal television sets where not only adults, but children also could see such erotica of course secretly. Point to be noted here is, after several attempts, none could ban production and distribution of such films. On the other hand, several stakeholders started realising  that awareness creation among parents and children may yield better results to make them understand why such contents should not be consumed for home viewing purpose, especially when there are growing children around.  But could this actually stop children from becoming over matured in regard to understanding sex related issues? Perhaps no. during my teenage days I got to see many of peers borrowing books which had erotica contents as parts of the text. We were not allowed to carry such books or pictures to the schools. But I know many of my friends secretly enjoyed those materials just how their elders may do . slowly I understood that this is because our inquisitiveness regarding sex was suppressed right at the time when we should have been told about this by our teachers or elders .
          Then came the internet era. One of the worst forms of violence against women took place in the cyber space when women were abused to create erotica contents for the porn markets.  Children were neither spared. But because children need more care and protection, their cause was highlighted more. Some of the websites did cater child porn materials with children as actors. The stakeholders who wanted to bring a blanket ban on porn sites not only wanted to emphasise upon the fact that child actors may be abused for creation of such contents, but also that such porn contents may encourage others including adults and children to take up similar measures to abuse other children.  Laws were created in both Information technology Act (S.67B)and as well as Protection of children from sexual offences Act (POCSO)(s.13) whereby such creation and distribution and also consumption were prohibited. These laws actually extended their scopes to the websites who would be hosting such contents as well. However, the websites are already armed with their own due diligence policies which stem out from US laws. Hence in India also websites were given an advantageous position whereby their own mechanism can detect the illegal contents, remove it from public viewing and block the uploader from uploading any such content again. It was only when that they fail to take notice of the reports made by the victims themselves, observers who feel that such contents are objectionable and the criminal justice administration, that websites can be indicted  and the veil of exemption from being directly liable is lifted (S.79, Information Technology Act). In this regard several rules are also created as intermediary guideline rules.  But adults were also given consideration while creating laws against porn or obscenity. S.67 of the information Technology Act 2000( amended in 2008) prohibits creating/publishing/distributing obscene materials in the electronic form and S.67A prohibits publishing/distributing sexually explicit materials in the electronic media.  It must be noted that when we speak about adults, no law recognises the term “pornography” as an offence or part of any offence. There is no legal definition as such of the term. What does it mean then? Is creating/ distributing/ producing pornography legal? Are the websites who are created solely for the purpose of catering pornography legal? Is watching pornography legal ?  No! it may not be legal when pornography is understood in the meaning of sexually explicit object.  It is neither legal when the content so created involves other privacy issues including voyeurism, revenge porn, sextortion etc.  Some of the Indian laws do recognise the above issues, some remain un recognised. The question is, are consumers/viewers and the websites liable for consuming/ catering such contents as adult porn materials? it is interesting to note that  if the content is erotica, does not fall within the category of Ss. 292 IPC(sale etc of obscene books, pamphlets etc), 354C IPC( voyeurism), 66E( violation of privacy), 67 and 67A, 67B of the Information Technology Act,2000(amended in 2008). As the Supreme court has observed, the viewers are not responsible when they view these contents in private.  But yes, viewers may be liable only when it amounts sexual harassment within the meaning of various laws in India including sexual harassment of women at workplace (prevention, prohibition and redressal)  Act, 2013 etc. it may also amount to an offence if the viewer forces the partner or spouse to watch the same against his/her wish. Of course, in the later situation, the burden of proof lies much upon the complainant if he/she wants to establish the fact that such activities were done in a course of mental torture and domestic violence  to the spouse. It must be noted that the websites are neither responsible if they have observed due diligence.  
But then how should we manage the huge growth of porn industry which is largely dependent upon the contributors of home-made porn and consumers? I feel here comes the question of  society’s and not the court’s  or the government’s lone responsibility . Thousands of porn contents are fed in the websites every minute. These sites include exclusive adult sites, social media like Facebook, You Tube etc and also mobile messaging services like WhatsApp.  When we speak about amateur porn contents, we may note that majority of such contents are actually voyeur porn, revenge porn and sexted contents which got leaked due to various reasons.  When an adult prefers to watch porn content, he would definitely not know whether the same is a legal content or an illegal content.  Just because the content is catered through adult sites, the content may not become offensive. Similarly, just because the content is catered through social media like Facebook or YouTube, it may not become a legal content. Consider the gang rape videos. It does not make legal to watch or circulate such videos just because they are circulated to identify the accused. Even if the victim is not shown, the video harms the privacy of the victim in the same fashion as it may do if it would have shown the victim.  In that case, can the government block Facebook or YouTube or WhatsApp because such videos were circulated through them?  They can not. There is a procedure to make the websites take down these contents. Further, what would be the effect of banning if only Indian viewers in India would be barred from viewing some contents but contributors staying abroad upload  revenge porn, voyeur videos  from foreign IP addresses ? Would that not be more victimising for victims whose privacy has been violated? Such contributors would not be able to show such contents to Indian viewers, but the contents can be visible anywhere else in the world. In such cases, how would the victim be able to prove the case if he/she is provided only with the link and that does not work within Indian jurisdiction? we need to understand that in all over the world, police still needs sensitisation to deal with cyber crimes especially against women and in such cases, the victims are bound to face secondary harassment in the hands of police as well.   By saying this I argue that websites as organisations must share the social responsibility to stop victimisation of women, men and children. Websites thrive in the market because of its contributors and consumers.  It is only when that the websites take a strong note on contribution of contents which are violative of laws as well as privacy of individuals that the illegal contribution may be brought down. Coming to the consumption, it would be wrong to say that all consumers of porn contents are perverts. Porn contents may be used as sexual stimuli and this factor has been noted by medical researchers especially in sexology, reproduction science etc. But such stimuli should be used for healthy sexual relationships and purposes. Not for violating rights. I completely agree with the views that porn contents do affect youth who get indulged in rape or sexual molestation just to experience direct pleasure from similar situations in real life. Who are responsible for letting the youth consume such contents  for unhealthy reasons? Definitely the  elders, the teachers who never explained about sex education and basic  guidelines to respect the privacy of women, men and children  in schools and homes , and the peers who seek to share the forbidden pleasure.  
We need to understand that blanket ban on porn sites would never be effective to stop victimisation of women, men and children either in real life or in cyber space. Instead of blanket ban or blocking the traffic for certain websites to all the broadband network consumers, the government should consider  taking up policies to detect the rackets who are spreading such contents to the websites, the faulty websites who are failing in practicing due diligence and of course to train the criminal justice organisation to be able to handle to reports of the victimisation within shortest time. We need to understand that porn contents are spread not only through adult websites, but also through every day accessible mechanisms such WhatsApp or even a simple MMS. That is because the contents may be stored in the personal devices and law can not enable any official to screen every device to detect whether porn contents are stored  and what types of contents are stored.  This would again bring debates about government surveillance and privacy. Truly, you can not shoot messenger, but can declare war against the devils that use the messenger for destructing peace.
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. (2015), “The Great Debate on Porn Ban: my views, 12th August, 2015 , published in

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

#Selfiewithdaughter with a tinge of misogyny

In my blog sometimes back I wrote about privacy issues in regard to sharing selfies in social media @ . I myself am a selfie fan but as I said in my earlier blog, I am concerned about the privacy issues and I avoid sharing selfies publicly. I broke this rule when I started campaigning for a novel cause: for spreading awareness regarding wearing helmet. I created a hashtag #selfieinhelmet and put my own #selfieinhelmet in Twitter and Facebook to invite my friends and general public to share theirs. Till now, I haven’t received much success except a few women friends of mine who wear helmets despite being conscious about their hairstyle.  I shared my concern with almost all the news media  Tweet handles I follow, some celebrities and my friends. Many of them retweeted, shared #selfieinhelmet. I am still awaiting for people to share their real #selfieinhelmet. But while doing this, I came across another novel idea : #selfiewithdaughter to boost the campaign for raising girl children by families especially in northern Indian regions where daughters are still considered as ‘burdens’ to the families. Started by Sunil Jaglan, the sarpanch of Bibipur village in Hariyana to strengthen the Central government’s save the daughter campaign, #selfiewithdaughter became immensely trending issue when the Prime Minister Narendra Modi  invited all parents, especially fathers to share their #selfiewithdaughter . Social media like Twitter and Facebook was flooded with selfies of proud fathers with their lovely daughters. Women also started sharing their selfies with daughters and finally I got to see many #selfiewithduaghter with both the parents lovingly sharing the space with their daughters. It was a wonderful feeling indeed. But at the same time, many including I myself felt that the #selfiewithdaughter ‘movement’ must be guarded with a note of caution : we all know the presence of paedophiles, women abusers and pranksters  in the social media and how they may work to collect images of girls and women to make illegal and unethical money  from porno industry. I shared my thought by Tweeting  “#selfiewithdaughter may not always b safe in#socialmedia” through my tweet handle @DrDebaratiH . Within a few minutes I got to see the highest  trending topic changed into Kavita Krishnan, and #selfiewithdaughter came down to the second position. The power of social media is amazing!  Why an individual activist should be pulled up in social media by hundreds of Tweeteratties amidst this beautiful campaign of save the daughters? Because Kavita opined her concern about privacy of daughters. But her words were harsher than anyone else and it directly targeted the Prime Minister himself. From her Tweet handle @ Kavita_krishnan she Tweeted “careful beforesharing #selfiewithdaughter with #LameduckPM. He has a record of stalkingdaughters”. Nonetheless, many did not like her post. This was nothing to do with the present #selfiewithdaughter campaign apparently, but  it was in relation to (as the news media tells) an old allegation where controversy brewed up when apparently a particular  political leader was audiotaped conversing with police officers for tracking a particular woman under the direction of “saheb” (Narendra Modi, the then chief Minister of Gujarat). Personally I could not fully agree with  Krishnan for  her this particular statement made in relation to #selfiewithdaughter campaign. She had used her right to speech and expression to opine her concern from political perspective; but I understand that it may have an underlying concern regarding breaching of privacy of women and girl children in the social media. But I felt her concern could have been shown more neutrally keeping the political issue aside. However, we need to remember that she has every right to express her thoughts in her own ways. But this very thought of her attracted trolls to diversify the campaign of #selfiewithdaughter and bring Krishnan in (dirty) limelight. Several people started speaking about raping her, calling her names and inviting others to join them in targeting her in their online trolling. News media immediately started flashing the Tweets targeting Kavita Krishnan as well. To some, the real purpose for #selfiewithdaughter became mockery of main issue.
        The question is, how far people can be ‘free’ to express their opinion especially if it is a death threat or rape threat or calling a woman with derogatory names? The courts in our country in many landmark judgements have repeatedly said that political satires, political criticisms etc may not always fall in the restricted speech category as these are essential to keep a healthy democracy alive. In this connection,  I would very much look forward to see the court’s reaction if anyone wants to stress upon the issue that Krishnan herself is also liable to justify her statement of calling a certain political personality a stalker of girls. But I reiterate, the underlying holistic concern in her statement which is related  to the safety of girls and women and also the possible online abuse of the girls due to large scale sharing of the images  in the ongoing #selfiewithdaughter campaigning must not be ignored. Coming to the derogatory comments targeting women, I would not be surprised if some trolls raise their voice stating that if Krishnan can call the PM a ‘stalker of girls’ then why she cannot be targeted with remarks which they feel, may describe her best! Here comes testing of the level of maturity of a healthy civil society. I would rather refer to my previous blog post on Elonis Decision by the US Supreme Court, regarding which scholars and activists like Chemaly and Franks stated that “.......the ruling suggests that the determination of what constitutes threat rests with the speaker and not his audience.”(See  See Chemali & Franks, Supreme Court may have online abuse easier, published on June 3, 2015 @ Agreed that this case was about a man who did not take name of the estranged wife whom he was actually targeting, and in Krishnan’s case, she had received direct threatening comments,   our courts in India still needs to take their own decisions on rape threats, derogatory comments against women in the social media especially when the issue presents sharing opinion on such issues involving large scale public awareness campaigns slightly tinged by political propaganda. But when seen from the perspective of targeting a particular woman (irrespective of who she is and why did she attract the trolls) with derogatory comments, I must say, I condemn such abuses. May be the protesters against Krishnan’s comments could have considered to limit their thoughts to pointing out why she is wrong in this particular context, or why #selfiewithdaughter should go ahead ignoring her remarks. But people should restrain from subjecting women to ‘online entertainment’ by posting rape threats or calling her derogatory names which lowers the morals of a woman. The same thing continues to happen with many other female activists, journalists and writers who stand up and express their concerns through their own ways. But unfortunately the police and the courts remain almost always silent. Even though our laws (The Indian Penal code, Information Technology Act, Indecent representation of women (prohibition) Act etc.) do speak about prohibitory provisions, none of them actually touches cyber bullying or trolling in the cyber space and in particular, bullying or trolling with death or rape threats or derogatory comments targeting women. S.509 IPC do condemn word, gesture etc harming the modesty of women, but it does not cater the need fully. It is understandable that even if there are laws which broadly or narrowly touches the issue of abuse of women in the cyber space, there needs to a positive network to execute the effect of the law; this includes the willing and trained  police officers, the lawyers and courts who would be compassionate to the cause and  the social media who are willing to pull down direct threat messages once they are alarmed by the victim as well as the criminal justice machinery. Above all, it is the victims who should come up to report and cooperate with criminal justice machinery and face the challenge in proper way by not encouraging others to indulge in counter trolling or bullying.
Let us hope the civil society wakes up with this understanding that if freedom of speech and expression comes with a duty to exercise the same for the benefit of the society and not for causing harm to others, especially women. 

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. (2015), #Selfiewithdaughter with a tinge of misogyny” published in

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Elonis decision: why would Indian women feel bothered?

The month of June opened with a ‘sweet surprise’ note for many free speech advocates when the US Supreme Court pronounced its decision in favour of Elinos, who was earlier convicted for posting violent messages in Facebook  fantasising killing of his estranged wife, who had a ‘protection order’ against Elinos.  His posts (which may no more be found in Facebook) ran like these : “There’s one way to love ya, but a thousand way to kill ya” ; “fold up your protective order and put it in your pocket. Is it thick enough to stop a bullet?”  He did not stop with his thoughts about harming his wife, he fantasised a school shooting and then targeting a female FBI agent also.  As I get to know from the text of the judgement, when Elinos’s boss came to know about it, he was fired and the concerned boss alerted the FBI as well.  May be because Elinos was targeting their own departmental staff in his ‘fantasy’, along with posting violent messages targeting schools that they started monitoring the posts made by him and subsequently he was indicted  under 18 USC S.875(c) (it says “Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both”) .After the Supreme Court judgement was published in the internet, concerned stakeholders published their own thoughts and opinions about the same.  While some felt that the judgement re-established the principles of free speech in regard to internet, some expressed concern regarding safety of women especially in domestic abuse cases.  Precisely, the court felt that the posts of Elonis were his own thoughts and even though the posts apparently seemed like threat messages to his wife or that the messages exposed his desire for a school shoot or harming a female FBI agent, the government failed to prove that the speaker’s (Elonis) ‘subjective intent’ was to execute the threats in real life. As Soraya Chemali and Mary Ann Frank in their writeup on the issue pointed out, “While the court did not go so far as to hold that a true threat turns on what the speaker intended to accomplish, the ruling suggests that the determination of what constitutes threat rests with the speaker and not his audience.”( See Chemali & Franks, Supreme Court may have online abuse easier, published on June 3, 2015 @
My attention is attracted to this particular judgement because Elonis was actually targeting women ( his wife and the female FBI agent) and children ( consider his post regarding school shoot out).  In its detailed judgement, it may be seen that the court was convinced by the defence of Elonis whereby he stated that he was actually posting those messages in the style of rap lyrics; that his posts were not direct threats that were to be executed like what happened for many other cold blooded murders or attacks including that of the blogger Abhijit Roy, who was supposedly sent warning messages by radical extremists who finally killed him in Bangladesh.  This judgement reminded me of our own Shreya Singhal vs. Union of India which struck down the controversial 66A. The US Supreme court  did not strike down any controversial laws, but it could motivate some stakeholders to think about the effect of laws, execution of the same and confusion among the legal fraternity regarding online abuse, especially targeting women. When the Indian Supreme court struck down 66A, while majority of the internet users, lawyers and supporters of free speech were happy, there were some including myself who expressed their concern . Is the judiciary paving a way for ‘abusers’ to escape the prosecution?  After the Shreya Singhal judgement was passed, many police officers told me that there would be a steep rise in online abuse now and we have to accept that these are but normal exercise of free speech. Nonetheless, women would continue to be the prime targets followed by transgender people, children and men. Surprisingly I was contacted by many journalists who expressed their anguish about lack of focussed laws on preventing online attack in the forms of bullying or trolling or threatening speech against women, celebrities, writers, journalists and also children. Our courts are oftener than not influenced by judgements of foreign courts; 66A judgement was no exception since the concept of free speech is being broadened basing on the understandings of the US and UK courts. When it comes to posting violent messages as Elonis did, in India, the women ( who may be targeted in the same fashion as the estranged wife of Elonis) would either leave the social networking sites, or may feel  extremely  traumatised  to speak about the issue, or may take up irrational modes like hiring hackers to remove those particular posts ( see Halder, D., & Jaishankar, K. (2015). Irrational Coping Theory and Positive Criminology: A Frame Work to Protect Victims of Cyber Crime. In N. Ronel and D. Segev (Eds.), Positive Criminology (pp. 276 -291). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-74856-8). Some women victims may  gather enough courage to report the matter to the police, but in my experience I have seen few successful endings in such cases.  The reason is simple; many police officers may think in the similar lines as the US Supreme Court  have thought “...........determination of what constitutes threat rests with the speaker and not his audience”. The case ends then and there when the victims are told to withdraw from social media or change the phone number. Unfortunately we still do not have ‘protective order’ types of orders for online abuse  especially when it comes to interpersonal attacks.  The police may cease the devices, destroy the SIM cards and the courts may pronounce jail term or bail. But in practice, nothing actually works. Unless the social media stops the accused from using his account, he may continue to misuse it by posting threatening messages and enjoy sadistically the fearful pleas, warnings or even gradual detoriation of the psychological health of the victim. If finally the social media or his other service provider blocks him, he may come back again with a new identity to continue the harassment.
While we boast of our laws for dealing with abuse and harassment of women, all is not always well. The courts need to see the practical points while acquitting posters of violent messages or hate messages.  Sometimes violent messages may really have the “road maps” for more actual violence even if the poster convinces the police as well the courts that he did not intend to harm actually.  From my experience I have seen how such messages may lead to graver misdeeds like creation of “fake avatars” ( I coined the term Fake Avatar which is defined as “a false representation of the victim which is created by the perpetrator through digital technology with or without the visual images of the victim and which carry verbal information about the victim which may or may not be fully true and it is created and floated in the internet to intentionally malign the character of the victim and to mislead the viewers about the victim’s original identity.”  see Halder Debarati,(2013) p. 197 “Examining the scope of Indecent Representation of Women (Prevention) Act, 1986 in the light of cyber victimisation of women in India” National law school journal, Vol 11,2013, 188-218)), or even extortion or stalking or online gang-attack.   It is high time that the law makers, police and the courts take note of the situation especially when it comes to digital safety of women.
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. (2015), “The Elonis decision: why would Indian women feel bothered?
6th June, 2015, published in

Friday, May 1, 2015

Selfie......... are we recreating the meaning of privacy and self respect?

My father used to write his daily diaries. After eight years since he is gone, when I read them, I understand how much relaxed he would have felt when he wrote about his day in the office and at home. But these diaries were his own private possession which he never shared with anyone. Privacy was a matter personal pride in those days. But with the advent of technologies, the meaning of privacy has become broader. Documenting every single moment of life has become a trend now. This has become possible by the ‘selfie’ way.
In my earlier blogs when I wrote about selfies, I observed that this habit among people newly armed with digital gadgets may be destructive. My observation still stands strong. Leave the cases of accidental deaths that had occurred due o selfie- passion. Consider that one series of photographs of a woman (claimed to be selfie), which became viral in the web :we saw her gradual change from a happy woman to a battered woman.  Social networking sites give the best platform for selfie lovers because you can share the selfie, no matter how you look. But selfies have  positive as well as negative sides too.  Your gadget is your best friend when you are a lone traveller to some amazing place where photography is allowed; your selfie  may help you to understand how much you have lost weight after hard workouts and these are extremely ego boosting too.  A selfie in a new job desk or in your new uniform can work wonder when you need to boost your energy towards your work or rekindle the passion to your work. I would not shy away from saying that even I am also a passionate ‘selfie’ woman. But certain selfies are not meant to be shared. They are like my father’s diaries, to be kept as ‘private possession’ only to assess and reassess oneself. One such category of selfies is definitely ‘sex selfies’. I am yet to explore the growing literature as why do women in particular allow themselves or their partners to capture such private moments. In India we can see extremely opposite views regarding sex. The ancient sculptures in temples depicting sexual positions are considered as ‘text book samples’ for every human being. We are the first civilisation to codify sexual postures and habits and the ancient scripture is still considered as the only authentic book on sex related topics which is even referred by doctors and even legal researchers when it comes to explain human psychology and physiology related to sex. But those ancient sculptures were not ‘selfies’  in true sense. Or were they? ............ I remember when I was a school student, we visited Odhisha and got to see such sculptures in one of the ancient temples. I still remember one of our teachers murmuring to herself saying these may be the sculptor’s own imagination with his beloved. But even if those were the sculptors’ own imaginations, their privacy is not infringed because those statues neither resemble anyone, nor bear the names of anyone.
Perhaps this was one of the reasons that Indian laws have categorically exempted these sculptures and ancient scriptures from being called as ‘sexually explicit materials’ or obscene materials.  The latest of such laws, S.354C of the Indian Penal code which speaks about voyeurism as a crime against women, also iterates the same. A woman has liberty to take ‘selfie’ or allow other to take such photograph when in a compromising moment. But that must be her ‘private possession’  as long as she feels it is not safe to share with public. Sense of privacy therefore matters much when we need to consider the offensive nature of the ‘selfie’. Also, one must consider about the perception of others when the selfie is viewed by others. One of my selfie that I uploaded in my Facebook profile once attracted huge attention from my friends as well as ‘strangers’. While some praised me for looking different after shredding  weight, some messages from ‘strangers’ made me feel uneasy as this particular photo of mine was probably  perceived by them as an object of ‘secret pleasure’. As a researcher, I am aware of the risks of participatory qualitative research methodology especially when the researcher herself becomes involved as a participant. As a precautionary measure, I restricted the viewers to my ‘friends’. But it may be necessary to note that even though I may have felt uneasy, I may not be able to bring a criminal case on those comments because they may not qualify as ‘bad speech’. A simple ‘hi beautiful’ from a stranger would not make the police or the judges believe that the poster had breached the laws or harmed my modesty as a woman in this internet age. Only when it falls in the typical categories of  harassing message, or stalking or intimidation etc, that I may be able to seek the legal help. But that does not mean that women should leave such ‘unwanted comments’ to form into those typical categories of ‘bad speech’ and suffer during the ‘gestation period.’ It is always safer to choose the audience and limit the same.
If women of digital era are aware of their own ‘privacy goals’ and self respect, selfies can remain wonderful risk free documents for a long time.
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. (2015), Selfie......... are we recreating the meaning of  privacy and  self respect?
, 2nd May,2015, published in

Monday, March 23, 2015

66A on the judgement day

When you read about S.66A of the Information technology Act, 2000(inserted through amended Act, 2008), the first thing you may note is its broad scope on censoring freedom of speech.  The provision is named as “punishment for sending offensive messages through communication services etc.” I had been an ardent fan of it since it came into effect in 2008 especially because it promised to prohibit harassment, threatening, defamation (call whatever name you wish to) not only against all netizens, but especially against women. in 2008 India did not see Nirbhaya uproar, which finally gave birth to some meaningful laws including anti-stalking (which included cyber stalking) law in the form of S.354D of the Indian Penal Code. India neither had Protection of women from sexual harassment at work place Act, which was ‘born’ in 2013. This law while grouping certain behaviours as ‘penal’, also included conveying of harassing messages through emails or other communication services as offensive behaviour. Most notable of the present laws which penalises sending offensive messages through communication services is obviously the protection of children from sexual offences Act, 2012. Each time I go through these provisions, I find the shadow of S.66A. Consider the first category of offensive message that has been laid down by 66A: “any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character”, send by ‘any person’ send by computer resource or communication device.  While this has attracted most of the controversies and has created shock waves for those who oppose S.66A, the second categorisation is contrarily more focussed. It categorises “any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, or ill will, persistently makes by making use of such computer resource or a communication device” as offensive communication, liable to be penalised.  I call it ‘more focussed’ because it has mentioned certain human emotions which can be triggered due to sending of particular messages and which the sender sends with particular malicious purposes. But still, this categorisation also attracted controversies due to linguistically twisted presentation of the provision. The third and the last categorisation of offensive messages create even more ‘shock’: it includes “any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages”. This is not the repetition of the earlier paragraphs or categorisation, but it is actually for broadening the scope of 66A to mail or messages  and not just only ‘information’.  People who oppose 66A, take up the defence of its almost open-ended scope which can involve anything and everything as offensive speech.  Since the internet has offered anonimity or no initial policing by the service providers  while generating the message, sects of people have started to use internet as a platform to express their opinion. One of the very first oppositions for 66A came up when  Aseem Trivedi , the political cartoonist was nabbed by the crime branch for his politically satirist cartoons depicting anti-corruption movement in early 2012; soon it followed by more oppositions due to the arrest of Palghar girls Shaheen Dhada  and her friend for their post in Facebook on Mumbai shutdown on the occasion of the death of Balasaheb  Thakre.  Needless to say, such arrests were made by the police on the instigation of political people who took full liberty to (mis)use 66A for curtailing the freedom of speech of common individuals. The latest being the arrest of a school boy on the alleged post targeting another political big shot in Uttarpradesh. Unfortunately 66A always found a slippery way in the hands of police who were ‘instigated’ by some people who wished to take the law in their hands in literal meaning. Added with it, s.66A being a provision which proscribes punishment which may extend to three years, also attracts the issues of cognizance and bailability. S.77B says any offence which is punishable with three years imprisonment or more, is a cognizable offence and bailable. It becomes an obvious fact that if and when any one intends to misuse the law, may use the penal objective of the same with fullest meaning so that the ‘accused’ gets a life time lesson. This is exactly what happens each time 66A is used for curtailing free speech especially in cases of opinions regarding political matters or consumer matters.  I say this, because these arrests were also challenged by Markendeya Katzu, who was a former Supreme Court judge.
But 66A also offers a wonderful safeguard against defamation and other harassment if it is read properly. Consider Article 19(2) of the Indian constitution which lays down reasonable restrictions for freedom of speech.  I see 66A in that light shredding those ambiguous categorisations. it is accepted that 66A lacks clear definitions which is extremely important for any restrictive law. But needless to say, we still do not have any provision to regulate online bullying, trolling or even harassment to women by way of insulting posts. S.509 of the Indian Penal Code may fulfil the gap since it punishes any word, gesture etc to insult the modesty of women. But again, when applying 509, many women may face the problem of ‘what is modesty’ types of questions by the police itself. I have known many victims who have been blamed by the police on this very basis.  Police still depends upon related laws to book the offender and many a times the case becomes extremely complicated due to misunderstanding of the issues. 66A may provide a wonderful solace in such cases.  But still, 66A has been used in many cases of harassment of women in the internet and it proved fruitful as well.
When I write this blog, I understand that within a few minutes or a couple of hours, the Supreme court of India may take its landmark decision on 66A on the grounds thus presented by the defenders and supporters of 66A.  I remember seeing a very meaningful observation in Twitter by none other than Pavan Duggal who mentioned that scrapping of 66A would not serve the purpose. I am an ardent fan of 66A and I would continue to support restrictive laws such as this one(off course when it is read and used in positive lights) if at all Supreme Court  shows lenience towards 66A’s opponents.  I really wish that 66A comes back, but not in its old form. It should be re-born with clear language and purposes.  66A may then mother many other laws which may be beneficial to not only women and children, but also groups of persons including racial minority, gender minority etc.

Wish you good luck 66A!
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. (2015), “66A on the judgement day” 24th March, 2015, published in

Friday, March 6, 2015

Why “India’s daughter” and sons cry in anger? Let us face it

Since March 4, 2015 every one in the social media in India and that of Indian origin were speculating about a new episode that would be unveiled by the BBC through its documentary India’s Daughter. When it was released on March 5th ahead of its original date on March 8, everyone who could watch it, had their own reactions: anger, shame, coupled with a feeling of frustration when the Government of India decided to ban the documentary film in Indian jurisdiction. But  note that we are in the internet era and this frustration was not for not being able to see the documentary in the television or the YouTube, but because of the failure of the criminal justice machinery to take action against the people who expressed their (peculiar) opinions about women in Indian society and about the delay in the hearing date in the Supreme Court which would have given the final verdict for the fate of the convicts if it was taken up at an urgent basis. When it came for me to watch it, I actually felt reluctant. I already had gone through hundreds of ‘reviews’ of the film within the day from my Facebook friends, Twitter handles that I follow and the other online portals who were discussing about the issue. It was expected that majority of men would speak about women’s liability in getting sexually victimised, women would speak about better education and awareness to stop sexual harassment and violence against women and the film itself would speak about the callous situation India is going through. What was unexpected was the version of the two lawyers who openly challenged women’s right to be equal human beings in Indian society. I did get to see bits and pieces of the film and like all of other readers I felt frustrated. But my frustration lies in different grounds:
Let us speak from the perspective of ethical issues: defending a client is a noble work and Indian constitution like many other constitutions guarantees the rights of the accused to defend his case through his lawyer. But by way of defence, a lawyer can not make any offending comments to women at large. I understand that many from the  legal fraternity would have made  complaints to the Bar Council of India against the two lawyers who were interviewed by Udwin for the purpose of this documentary. But interestingly I find it more offensive due to the way of usage of language by the lawyers. None could speak proper English and this made the offensive comments more vulgar and offensive to me: consider one comment “........The ‘lady’, on the other hand, you can say the ‘girl’ or ‘woman’, are more precious than a gem, than a diamond. It is up to you how you want to keep that diamond in your hand. If you put your diamond on the street, certainly the dog will take it out. You can’t stop it.”( by M.L.Sharma, the lawyer). There are many other such statements from both the lawyers. But what angers me is the understanding of the lawyers: women are certainly not ‘things’ and men are always not ‘dogs’. Again, consider this statement from the same lawyer “..... A woman means, I immediately put the sex in his eyes.” What exactly he wanted to mean is unclear to me, but I do understand that may be he wanted to say men and women cannot be ‘friends’  and other than being blood related, they are always sexual partners. But certainly a woman cannot and should not be treated as a ‘sex-item’ if she is seen with a man who is not her husband, father or brother or son. If the statements were taken in Hindi or in any other regional language, I am sure, the effects would have been more devastating because he would have been blunter like the rapist himself. The other lawyer nonetheless, was more direct in his warning to all women who would choose to roam in the streets with their boyfriends.  Did these two lawyers forget the basic principles of equality to all guaranteed in the Indian constitution? Did they know that their remarks can attract provisions like S.509 of the Indian Penal Code which prescribes punishment for derogatory remarks to women? Did they know such comments may even attract provisions meant for criminal intimidation, threatening etc, all of which are basic provisions in the Indian Penal Code? How could they turn into defence lawyers in criminal courts without knowing the basic criminal provisions which safeguard women in India? What sort of legal education they may have got?
Now coming to the rapist’s confessions; at one point of time, I felt that the documentary was actually helpful to the prosecution because the rapist had confessed his crimes publicly. His statements about his own past, his acquaintance with other rapists and their involvements in the rape case leave no doubts about his involvement in this case. This was no ‘accident.’ He is probably a habitual eve teaser and also sexual offender. He along with his gang, raped and brutally hurt the woman to death. He confessed that the victim’s intestine was brought out by the other rapist and they all enjoyed sadistically her situation. He does not have any remorse. He cannot. As some other interviewees pointed out, he is one such man who are brought up with the idea that women are inferior to men and women are to be beaten, sexually assaulted and killed if and when men feel. His lawyers as well as some other men opined that women ‘provocate’ men to rape by their dressing, by their ‘independence’ to roam in the nights. Prosecution can well use these points ( and probably had used already) to prove his criminal mindset and make the case as one ‘rarest of rare.’ But consider why then the government would have blocked the video in India?  First of all, as per the Indian criminal laws, a rape victim’s name or identity cannot be published publicly. By now, we all know that her name was Jyoti. But the counter arguments may show that her parents did not object for publicising her name. However, subsequent reports told that her parents neither wanted such show-off of their daughter’s victimisation. Further, as the news media says, the director of the film was not given permission for commercial usage of the film. Have you considered why such restrictions are put in this case? The case is not yet closed. Forget about what image India has as a ‘rape capital.’ But have you noted this almost sidelined ‘headline’ which appeared almost successively following this documentary controversy? If you are not aware, let me take the opportunity: in Nagaland a large group of people broke into the jail to publicly thrash a rape convict who later died of the beatings. The public anger towards the rapist and the lawyers may have reached such height that before they can be prosecuted or charged or the final verdict be given by the court, they may face similar fate. Who stands responsible then? The same media and the human rights activists may then take their own turns to defend the rights of the accused to be tried by the proper channel. Seeing in that perspective, probably the government has taken the right decision to block the video within the Indian jurisdiction which, they are empowered by S.69A of the Information Technology Act  which gives power to issue direction for blocking for public access of any information through any computer resource (not to forget, the order is restricted within Indian jurisdiction, even though the Information Technology Act extends its scope for offences or contraventions done beyond the jurisdiction of India).
But now, let us see it from researcher’s point of view: why would the video be suspended when we can get to see the beheading videos? When internet can spread the video from one site to another or share the same in personal homepage, giving every one opportunity to see a banned video?  I also support the arguments of some that let the video be open at least for the purpose of research. Let it not be used for commercial purposes (even though as alleged, the director has actually sold the rights to BBC and BBC may not restrict it for non-commercial purposes). The rage regarding this video may have a natural death (let us hope) because (I fear) it cannot influence those who live in societies where such videos are not seen as ‘awareness creating’ videos and rather this would be seen as a fitting reply to women’s boldness. Unfortunately, as the documentary shows, India has more of such societies. Let us hope that the documentary returns only for non-commercial purpose and enlighten those who can take the message to those societies and people who feel women are born to be victimised.
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. (2015), Why “India’s daughter” and sons cry in anger? Let us face it, March 6,2015, published in


Friday, February 6, 2015

When technology can(not) save the brave women

It had been months since I last wrote my blog on cyber crimes against women because of my other commitments. I had been travelling to Meghalaya, to Bhubaneswar and to Kolkata for attending seminars and workshops on cyber crimes as a resource person to talk on cyber crimes against women.  Yes, all three included taking flights and then taking taxis to respective accommodations. This is the first time that I was continuously travelling with one or two weeks gap and I immensely enjoyed my journey with my new smart phone. On previous occasions I could never use the camera devices within the flight because I was not that comfortable either with the journey in the flights or with handling camera along with my books, papers and flight documents. I was a novice. But this time, I was smarter. I kept the mobile smart phone handy and could capture some wonderful moments in the flight. Well, and why not when I got the lyricist Illayaraja as my VIP all others, I too got a selfie with him and proudly circulated it among my friends (obviously after taking his permission). In all these three occasions I immensely enjoyed the learning sessions in other speaker’s sessions and I loved arguing about my understanding of laws related to S.66A of the Information Technology Act and other related provisions.  I loved roaming around in the cities either by walking or by taxi. The most surprising for me was definitely the taxi system in Kolkata since I never thought like other cities Kolkata will also have luxury cars turned into taxis putting a great competition for our good and old Yellow taxis.
Then happened the Uber taxi rape case in Delhi with this unfortunate yet brave woman who was molested and raped by this rapist taxi driver who was driving the taxi operated by Uber.
No, I did not use any app for booking my taxies and it was quite new for me as well. I was still following the old rule of booking the taxi from the hotel or getting a taxi from the shopping mall by either directing talking to the driver or through prepaid taxi-counters.  The Uber cab rape case made me think twice as what I should learn about using technology while travelling. Let me tell you, that the one and only “page” I follow for road safety is the page by ,  even though I have never contributed to the site and  I know the data thus provided in such apps  for positive gain of the society, may  be misused by miscreants as well.  But Uber case was altogether very different. The cab was registered with the company who runs it from their head office in the US and through the mobile app, one can book the cabs in selected cities in India. What the customer generally gets to know is the number of the car, the photograph and cell phone number of the driver. This particular cab did not have certain basic security features including the name and photograph and the photocopy of the driving license of the driver. The victim was raped and as has been reported by the news media, the driver allegedly threatened to kill victim if she dared to report.  Note that  Uber was supposed to supervise whether the driver and the cab were well monitored through GPS . But in this case, the car did not have the GPS and the driver did not have any sign of it in his mobile as well. The victim however showed her smartness in using the smart-phone  for taking photograph of the number plate of the car and using it as an evidence for lodging  the FIR to the police. I can’t stop praising her guts as even after being molested and threatened, she was not cowed down by threatening and could click the image of the car, which was used as a vital evidence to nab the offender and also take action against the Uber . The company was also pulled in by the prosecution and Uber services were banned in couple of cities in India as they failed in providing proper safe services due to their lacklastering verification process. This can be a fine example of tort liability for every law student in India. But what the Uber cab victim could not do the other few women did in different parts of India; consider the Rohtak sisters whose video of hitting some boys because they were allegedly disturbing the two girls went viral in the internet. Even though later it was claimed by some that these sisters were not defending themselves, but actually beating the boys for public attention, it further created a trend among many to use smart devices for capturing the victimisation or post victimisation scenes. Consider the video of this young woman who was ‘protesting’ body touch by a co-passenger in the Indigo flight recently; the video went viral in the internet. It did not show the complainant, neither the act of touching or molestation, but the alleged harasser and some passengers who were ready to leave the flight. Again, this video claims further benefit of doubt as has been stated by the person who was being protested against. True, no woman can immediately switch on the camera devices to capture the moments of molestation if she is being touched or molested, but when a man or other bystanders take the video or capture images, that may have a better chance to defend the victim’s claim than this one.   
This digital trend similar to “naming and shaming”, is the trend of “sharing, showing and shaming”. The newest of this trend is the circulation (initiated through WhatsApp )  of the images of some men who were allegedly raping a woman (and now the images are floating in the Facebook and other social media and news channel as well). Activist Sunitha Krishnan spread the images for tracing the rapists. I am not aware as how the rape scenes have gone viral from the rapists or the bystanders, but definitely if the allegations are real, then this is another case of rapists  behaviour of what I call “rape while I tape”, meaning   recording the rape for his own pleasure which is an example of extremely sick mentality.  But my question is how far “sharing, showing and shaming” can be beneficial to victims, as well as the society? Not always it can be beneficial. It can be risky as well .  I agree with Professor Danielle Citron, writer of the book Hate crimes in Cyber space, which I had the privilege of reviewing, where she discusses about risks involved in naming and shaming (pp.109-111).  Similarly, in cases of “sharing, showing and shaming”, the victim woman may use her devices to record the traces of victimisation, but it further needs to be forensically proved and again, the burden of proof lies on the victim as well as the prosecution. The ‘perpetrator’ can always claim to be portrayed wrongly. Further, tell me how many of the police officials who may be contacted with such digital records taken by the victim herself, would believe the victims? I tell it from my own experiences of dealing with victims of crimes including cyber crimes, not many police officials are even able to safely record the images from the victim’s devices. It may bring further secondary harassment to victims when she is ridiculed by the moral police groups or supporters of the alleged harasser.

But brave women, I salute you for what you have done and wish that your struggle is rewarded. This reminds me of the hard truth again ...... technology is a double edged weapon and it may not always help the women even when it is used with immense hope that it would actually help.
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. (2015),When technology can(not) save the brave women" “ 6th February,,2015, published in