CHILDREN AND WOMEN: INNOCENT TARGETS OF CYBERCRIME
By- Anjali Gupta, Student at Amity Law School, Noida, and A Renganath, Student at Amity Law School, Delhi, (Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University)
India has moved up towards becoming digitalized where the Government of India has also launched the campaign ‘Digital India’ in the year 2015 to ensure that Government services are made available to all its citizens online. With the technological advancement where a large portion of the population is dependent on computers, mobile phones, and its applications and social media it won’t be wrong to point out that the people are addicted to the gigantic cyber world. This current situation of pandemic and lockdown has also forced many days to day activities to move online as people have started working from home and classes are also conducted online. In this age of computers, the continuous dependency on technologies cannot be completely avoided but precautions can always be taken against cybercrimes. Women and children are considered to be the most vulnerable section of the society who can easily be exploited, harassed, and abused thereby making them easy prey for cybercrimes.
Cybercrimes are the criminal activities carried out by means of computers or through the internet and it is on the rise because offenders are now in direct contact with children and women via social networks and chat functions in various apps and games.
As per statistics of the Centre for Advanced Research in Digital Forensic & Cyber Security (ARDC) 76% of women below the age of 30 have faced online harassment and 1 in 10 women under this age have also faced sextortion. Even though there is no separate mention of cybercrimes against children in the data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) many activists and commissions working for the protection of children are of the view that in a large portion of these crimes, children are the victims.
There are several kinds of cybercrimes that are perpetrated against women and children which include online harassment, cyberstalking, morphing, cyber pornography, blackmailing, cheating, sexual exploitation, and further harassment of women and children for voyeuristic pleasures. Women and children are considered as the soft target of such crimes as they often trust the predators and share their personal information which leads to numerous crimes. Young children and teenagers don’t have the mental maturity to understand the utmost repercussions of what they may face in this cyber platform and because they are often repulsive, rebellious, trusting, adventurous, and eager for attention and affection. Troubled and rebellious teens who are seeking emancipation from parental authorities can be susceptible to internet predators as the risk of falling prey to such crime is greater for the youth who are emotionally vulnerable.
Such internet interactions that may appear decent and safe initially may not be so in the long run and can be misused by the perpetrator which may lead to sexually explicit content and may cause physical and emotional harm to the victim and may violate their rights as well. Where most of the time the victim is oblivious to the dangers of cyberspace, parents find it difficult to protect them due to lack of awareness about the legal remedies available.
Cyber Crimes are sometimes mistakenly perceived as a victimless crime, but it will be a surprise to know the amount of mental and physical trauma the exploited children or women go through. The emotional impact on the victim is more long-lasting as the victims often feel that there has been an invasion of their privacy.
LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK OF CYBERSECURITY IN INDIA
In this present tech-savvy world where not only the dependency on the internet has increased but crimes pertaining to it has also increased and to combat such crimes the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act) was enacted and certain amendments were also made in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) to take cybercrimes into its purview.
The IT Act is the main act which deals with the legislation in India governing cybercrimes. Certain cybercrimes that can be committed against women and children are being prosecuted under section 66 which deals with hacking, section 67 which deals with publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form, and Section 72 which deals with breach of confidentiality. Section 67 B deals with the punishment for publishing or transmitting of material depicting children in the sexually explicit act in electronic form. Cyber defamation, cybersex, email spoofing, and trespassing into one’s privacy domain is not expressly mentioned under this Act. Cyber Appellant Tribunal is established under the IT Act to stop cybercrimes and punish those who are the offenders.
Apart from Section 354 and 509 of IPC which deals with outraging the modesty of women or usage of word, gesture or act to insult the modesty of women, this code was further amended and certain provisions have been introduced to directly redress cybercrimes like cyberstalking under Section 354D and Voyeurism under Section 354C. Although obscenity on the internet is not defined as a crime under the IPC, the internet has now provided a medium for facilitating such crimes.
In addition to the IT Act, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO ACT) also provides legal protection against sexual assault, sexual harassment, and child pornography. The POCSO Act is applicable where the victim is under eighteen years of age.
SCHEMES AND COMMISSIONS FOR THE PROTECTION OF WOMEN AND CHILDREN
The Ministry of Home Affairs had constituted an expert group named Cybercrime Prevention against Women and Children (CCPWC). This scheme had been examined by the National Commission for Women and constitutes several IT experts and the Indian Institute of technology to effectively curb the Cyber Crime in the country and create awareness among the people. Some of the functionaries which are constituted under the committee are the Online Cybercrime Reporting Unit, Forensic Unit, and Capacity Building Unit.
Another body is the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) was established under Section 13 of the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005. The aim of this commission is to make sure that no Child Rights are being violated as provided under the Constitution of India as well as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The major responsibility of this commission is to maintain the responsibilities provided under the POCSO Act, 2012, and Right to Education Act, 2009.
INSTANCES OF CYBER CRIMES IN INDIA
The ‘Ritu Kohli Case’ was one of the first few cases that brought cyberstalking into the limelight in India. In this case, Mrs. Kohli complained that a stranger was chatting on the internet using her identity and disclosed her personal details including her phone number and address. Subsequently, Mrs. Kohli started receiving random calls on odd hours which ultimately created havoc in her personal life. The Delhi police acted swiftly by tracing the IP address and ultimately arrested the offender.
The ‘Blue Whale’ and ‘Momo Challenge’ are an example of a few games which had claimed the lives of young children around the world. These games were designed in such a way that the children were so much engrossed in completing the task of the games that they ended up damaging themselves and committing suicide.
In the recent case of ‘Boy Locker Room’, the Cyber Crime Cell of Delhi Police identified a group named ‘Bois Locker Room’ on Instagram which was being used by few boys to share obscene messages and pictures of minor girls and passed lewd comments. The police ceased their phones and FIR was registered under relevant sections of the IT Act and IPC.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
When it comes to fighting against cybercrimes especially against children and women, India is at the bottom. Cybercrimes in India are not taken seriously and most of the time such cases are not recorded in India due to many reasons, including lack of awareness among the authorities who are handling such cases and due to hesitancy of the victim and the fear of defamation of family’s name. Even the naïve Indian parents are not aware of legal remedies and some even end up victim-blaming and due to the social stigma involved police action is not taken.
There are few ways to protect children from cybercrimes such as by using parental control software, placing computers in highly trafficked areas and set limits on internet access to a few websites, and by maintaining backup and security checking. Educating parents and children is the key to preventing cybercrimes. Children and women should understand the impact of sharing information online and how it can be misused by the public at large. They should also be encouraged to report strange and obscene websites or unwanted contacts. In order to spread awareness Cybercrimes as a subject must be included in the school curriculum. Age verification must be made mandatory while accessing the website containing explicit content. The law enforcers and stakeholders like the police need to keep pace with the advancing technologies and make sure that they can identify the actual perpetrator with ease.
The cyber-world is entirely different from the real world but it has the capacity to engage crimes that happens in the real world.
 The Information Technology Act, 2000 (Act 21 of 2000), s. 66, 67, 72, 67B  Ibid.  Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Act 45 of 1860), s. 354, 509.  Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (Act 32 of 2012)  Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005 (Act 4 of 2006)  The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (Act 35 of 2009)
(Disclaimer- The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Child Rights Centre.)