HOW ARE WOMEN AND CHILDREN PROTECTED AGAINST INTERNET PREDATORS?

There are several legislations, both general and special, that aim to protect women and children from internet predators and prosecute predators for offences committed online. This blog post provides an overview of the various legal provisions that women and children can take recourse to.

Violation of privacy 

Section 66E of the Information Technology Act (“IT Act”) deals with the offence of violation of one’s privacy. We’ve explained this here. The Indian Penal Code (“IPC”) contains sections 292 and 509, which cover the offence of violating privacy, particularly women, partially. Under section 509, any person, with an intention to outrage the modesty of any woman, communicating anything to the woman, or intruding upon her privacy can be punished with imprisonment up to one year, or with fine, or with both. Whereas section 509 identifies only women as victims, section 66E of the IT Act is gender neutral. 

Voyeurism

Section 354C of the IPC deals with the offence of voyeurism. Voyeurism includes capturing and transmitting images of a woman engaged in a private act without her consent. The circulation may be through online or offline modes. Online distribution of such pictures would amount to sexual violence in the cyberspace. Private acts include a woman using the toilet, or a woman engaged in sexual intercourse. The offence is punishable with imprisonment of three to seven years and a fine.  

However, voyeurism is constituted as a gender neutral crime under the IT Act. ‘Circumstances violating privacy’ under the IT Act constitute those circumstances in which a person is disrobing or has a reasonable expectation that their private areas/scenes will not be seen by the public.  Such offences can be punished with imprisonment which may extend up to three years and fine up to ₹2,00,000. Under section 67A of the IT Act if material which is published online is sexually explicit, the person can be imprisoned for up to five years and be liable to pay a fine of up to ₹10,00,000.

Sharing obscene material in public without the consent of the recipient

Section 354A of IPC deals with sexual harassment, which includes the act of showing pornographic content to a woman against her will. Sections 67 and 67A of the IT Act also deal with this offence. We have explained this here. Under section 294 of the IPC, any person who, to the annoyance of others, does any obscene act in any public place, may be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three months, or with fine, or with both. However, under section 294 of the IPC, the obscene act must be committed in public, with an intention to cause annoyance to members of the general public.

Use of children for pornographic purposes

Section 13, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (“POCSO”) Act, 2012 provides, “whoever, uses a child in any form of media (… whether … [it] … is intended for personal use or for distribution) for the purposes of sexual gratification,” shall be guilty of the offence of using a child for pornographic purposes. Section 14 of POCSO prescribes punishment with imprisonment up to five years and fine (and in the event of second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment up to seven years and fine) for the pornographic depiction of children.

Section 67B of the IT Act deals with transmission of nude or sexually explicit material depicting children. It provides, whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published or transmitted, material in any electronic form which depicts children engaged in sexually explicit acts or conduct or creates text or digital images, collects, seeks, browses, downloads, advertises, promotes, exchanges or distributes material in any electronic form depicting children in obscene or indecent or sexually explicit manner or cultivates, entices or induces children to online relationship with one or more children for and on sexually explicit act or in a manner that may offend a reasonable adult on the computer resource or facilitates abusing children online or records in any electronic form own abuse or that of others pertaining to sexually explicit act with children, shall be punished with imprisonment of which may extend to five years and with a fine which may extend to ₹10,00,000. In the event of second or subsequent conviction, a person may be punished with imprisonment which may extend to seven years and also with fine which may extend to ₹10,00,000. 

Revenge pornNowadays victimizing women and children through revenge porn has become a common practice. It is an act whereby “a perpetrator satisfies his anger and frustration for a broken relationship through publicizing a false, sexually provocative portrayal of his/her victim, by misusing information that he may have known naturally and that he may have stored on his computer, or phone, or may have been conveyed to his electronic device by the victim herself, or may have been stored in the device with the consent of the victim herself; and which may essentially have been done to publicly defame the victim.” It should also be seen in the perspective of indecent representation of women and children. It essentially creates sexual violence necessarily involves voyeurism, hacking, stalking, and violation of privacy. In India we don’t have any specific law for regulating revenge porn, however such offences can be punished under the provisions described above.

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