Brazen misogyny

Don’t spare perpetrators of cybercrimes against women

Brazen misogyny

Photo for representation only.

The communally motivated and sexist ‘Bulli Bai’ app has surfaced just six months after the ‘Sulli Deals’ app and website had plundered publicly available pictures of Muslim women and described them as ‘deals of the day’. The failure of the law enforcement agencies to crack down on the perpetrators in the ‘Sulli Deals’ case has emboldened cyber criminals and hate-mongers to spew misogynistic venom all over again. The Delhi Police have registered an FIR against unknown persons for allegedly uploading a doctored picture of a woman journalist, while the Mumbai cyber police have booked the ‘Bulli Bai’ app developers and Twitter acoount holders. Meanwhile, the web platform GitHub has blocked the site. The Union Government has stated that it is working with the police in Delhi and Mumbai, even as there is no gainsaying that decisive action and strong commitment are needed to ensure that such crimes are not repeated.

Worldwide, cyberspace is increasingly becoming a haven for perverts, trolls and purveyors of toxic masculinity. And India is no exception. In 2020, around 2,300 cases of cybercrimes against women were registered in the country, up from 1,600 reported in 2019. The majority of these crimes pertain to the publication or transmission of sexually explicit material. Blackmail, defamation, morphing, creating fake profiles and cyber stalking are some of the ways in which criminals hound and insult women.

Apart from exemplary action against the culprits, there is a dire need to firm up the legal provisions so that the law can act as a potent deterrent. The Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008, made almost all cybercrimes bailable and reduced the quantum of punishment for most of the offences. For instance, five years’ imprisonment for online obscenity made way for a one-year jail term. Increasing use of mobile phones and greater access to the Internet have made women more vulnerable to online harassment. Central and state governments must take the lead in prioritising safety of women — no matter which community they belong to — and bring social media platforms to book for not doing enough to stem the rot.

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