'Banning porn and revenge porn platforms is hardly the solution'

Hyderabad man arrested in revenge porn case where does India stand on legislationImage for representation
news Cyber crime Monday, July 04, 2016 - 17:16

27-year-old Banda Rupesh met Ranjana (name changed) when he was studying in an engineering college in Andhra Pradesh and the two fell in love. However, their college romance did not outlive their graduation days. Six years later in 2016, Rupesh began blackmailing Ranjana, now a married woman, to rekindle their romance again. Faced with her rejection, he posted her intimate videos online and sent its CDs to her in-laws.

Banda Rupesh has been arrested and let out on bail, but Ranjana is just one of the many among a growing number of ‘revenge porn’ cases.

What is revenge porn?

The term ‘revenge porn’ is used when scorned and vindictive partners post nude, explicit or private photos of the subject on websites without his/her consent in an attempt to humiliate them.

According to law professor at University of Miami, Mary Anne Franks, “revenge porn” is a misnomer, instead, “non-consensual pornography” is the appropriate term, she says.

In 2014, a 22-year-old college student from Udupi in Karnataka was horrified when she discovered that her ex-boyfriend had posted intimate images of them on social media and pornographic websites after they broke up.

“There is no dearth of laws in India (to deal with these cases),” says Sudha Ramalingam, a senior lawyer practicing in the Madras High Court. “The problem is that people take a lot of time to report such cases and when they do, they are often discouraged by the authorities (to take it forward).”

Sudha adds that the slow judicial process is another deterrent. “By the time the trial happens, everyone has forgotten what happened!”

Rupesh was charged under the Nirbhaya Act, which provided in 2013 for amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 on laws related to sexual offences; as well as the Information Technology Act.

Under this amendment, ‘voyeurism’ was recognized as an offence under Section 354C of the IPC, which is defined as “Watching or capturing a woman in “private act”.

Section 66E of the IT Act provides for punishment for violation of privacy. Section 354C provides for maximum punishment period of three years (for first time offenders), so does 66E.

Apart from the IT Act and Section 354 of the IPC, cases of defamation under Section 500 and criminal intimidation and file charges under Sections 504 and 506 of IPC can also be registered. While section 354C only protects women, Ramalingam says in cases where men are the victims of revenge porn, they can always file a defamation suit.

In such a case, does India need more laws to deal with offences related to revenge porn? Sudha maintains that creating more laws would hardly be the solution. “Multiplication of laws is only going to create confusion and ambiguity regarding application,” she says.

When it comes to online regulation regarding revenge porn, Google had published a policy last year stating that they would honour requests of those who have been victims of “revenge porn” and remove nude or sexually explicit images shared without their consent from Google Search results.

While the move was hailed from many quarters, some called it a “narrow and limited” policy, meaning it will be considered only after a removal request has been made.

In February and March of 2015, Social Networking Sites (SNS) such as Facebook, Twitter and Reddit too had announced that it had banned revenge porn on their sites.

How do other countries deal with revenge porn?

In the United States for example, 21 states in had outlawed revenge porn as of 2015, with legislation on the anvil in as many as 17 other states.

In Asia, Philippines legislated on the issue as early as 2009 and Japan enacted the Revenge Porn Prevention Act in November 2014. In India, however, there is no concrete legislation specifically targeting the crime.

Though there is no specific data on the number of revenge crimes that are reported in India, incidents of cyber –related crime have shot up significantly.

According to National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB) data up to July 2014, there has been a 63.7 per cent rise in cyber offences from 2012 to 2013. The category "transmission of obscene content in electronic form” witnesses a sudden explosion in the number of cases with a 104.2 per cent increase than the previous year.

Is banning porn and revenge porn platforms the solution then?

“If you ban one, two more are going to pop somewhere else on the internet,” argues Sudha. “The only solution here is to sensitize people about the problem,” she says.

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