With the increased adoption of digital mediums and artificial intelligence (AI), the cyber world has expanded considerably. Consequently, novel cybercrimes targeting women and children have emerged.
Although cyber laws have been devised to protect citizens, cheating, fraud, defamation, misrepresentation, publishing vulgarity, spreading fake news, sextortion, cyberbullying, cybersex trafficking, and phishing are encountered on a daily basis.
Cybercrimes expose the dark side of the Internet or digital world.
According to a report, in 2019, India lost approximately 1.25 lakh crores rupees to cybercrimes. In the same year, India reported 45000 cases of cybercrimes, which was 63% more than in 2018.
These cybercrimes are reported or noticed daily. Although some crimes are reported to authorities, other crimes went unnoticed.
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Cybercrime against women during a pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic forced people to shift to digital mediums. Women and children not well-versed with the digital world were easily targeted and defrauded on the Internet.
Sextortion and cybersex trafficking were some cybercrimes that were easily perpetuated for money-making purposes. In sextortion, the offender extorts money from victims and blackmails them into leaking her private or morphed pictures.
In cybersex trafficking, the offender blackmails the victim or manipulates her.
Such crimes may include leaking their private or morphed pictures or influencing them to send their sexually explicit photographs and videos through webcam or live camera shows.Those videos are sold online to predators to earn money and makes the victim a part of cybersex trafficking by manipulating or coercion.
Cybercrime against children during a pandemic
Another demographic most vulnerable to these cyber crimes is our budding generation (children).
The most common crimes on digital platforms are cyberbullying, sextortion, cybersex trafficking, phishing attacks, child pornography, sexually explicit content for children, and sexual abuse.
The offender can easily gain a child’s trust considering the child’s mental capacity and subsequently lure him/her into gaining sexual favours.
Sexually explicit content for children gradually directs them towards the dark side of the internet, where they are exposed to sexual abuse.
Sexual exploitation of children cannot be ignored.
Most common cybercrimes encountered by women
The most common crimes on a digital platform that women encounter are cyberstalking and cyber hacking. Most girls or women lack proper awareness of these cybercrimes.
Cyberstalking is an attempt to connect with the victim even after her disapproval, and bombarding the victim with emails, messages, on her social media profile. Cyberstalking is the violation of privacy.
When online, privacy is compromised and your personal and professional details enter the public domain. Therefore, ensuring that these details do not land in unintended sources is critical.
- Cyber hacking
Cyber hacking is a method to target women or girls by making them click on malware links to get all the information available on their phone, gain control of their camera and microphone, and capture their intimate pictures and videos. These pictures and videos are used for extortion and other favours.
Most common cybercrimes encountered by children
As per cyber law in India, children encountered the most common form of cybercrime, that is, cyberbullying and child grooming.
Cyberbullying is the type of crime in which a child is bombarded with harsh, abusive, cruel, and mean language to bully them. Due to their emotional instability, children are prone to these bullying activities. This abusive and harsh language has a severe effect on the mental capacity of the child.
- Child grooming
Child grooming is another form of crime committed on digital platforms committed against children. The offender forms a trustworthy and fiduciary bond with the child and lures them to gain sexual favour. Child groomers can easily manipulate a child as they understand children’s psychology.
Indian Laws for cyber crimes
Cyber law in India has delineated strong and codified laws. Laws dealing with cyber issues are as follows:
- Information technology Act, 2000, deals with the prohibition of transmission of sexually explicit content (S.67) and dealing with issues in violation of privacy (S.66E), publishing or transmitting materials involving children in the sexually explicit act in electronic form (S.67B).
- The IPC, 1860, deals with offences such as voyeurism(S.354C), stalking (S.354D), criminal intimidation (S.503), word gesture act intended to insult the modesty of a woman (S.509).
- Indian Evidence Act, 1872 deals with the admissibility of electronic evidence in a court of law (S.65B)
- POCSO, 2012 deals with the prohibition of the use of child pornography (S.13).
- Indecent Representation of Women (prohibition) Act, 1986, prohibits the publishing or sending by post any material containing indecent representation of women (S.4).
As per cyber law in India, punishments have been laid down for perpetrators violating these laws.
Under Section 66E & 67 of IT Act, 2000, the maximum punishment is 3 years with a fine of up to 2 lakh Rs and 5 years and a fine up to 10 lakh Rs simultaneously.
An offence committed under Section 354A and 354C of IPC, 1860, would attract punishment of 3 years or fine, or both and 7 years with fine.
An offence under Section 13 of the POCSO Act, 2012, would attract punishment of 5 years and fine, and on subsequent offence would attract a sentence of 7 years with fine.
Protection of Children
Children can only be protected by raising awareness of these crimes and the application of cyber laws. Awareness is the greatest agent for change.
Awareness among children can prevent children from visiting predatory websites and traps by those cyber predators. By knowledge and application of laws, children should be more cautious when using digital media.
Another mode to protect children from the cons of the cyber world is, awareness among parents about the crimes and laws associated with Internet usage and appropriate counselling of their children.
During the pandemic, the number of cybercrimes against women in India increased rapidly. The cyber law in India provides various procedures and laws to deal with these crimes. These crimes should be reported as soon as possible after their occurrence:
- On the national cybercrime portal,
- Cyber Crime cell,
- BY registering a first information report (FIR) at the nearest police station
Women and children are especially vulnerable to cybercrime. Therefore, they become easy targets for cyber offenders and sexual predators.
Which section of the POCSO Act, 2012, deals with the prevention of children for pornographic purposes?
Section 13 of the POCSO Act, 2012, deals with the prevention of children for pornographic purposes.
Which section of which act deals with prohibition of publication or sending of books, and pamphlets consisting of indecent representation of women?
Section 4 of the indecent representation of women (Prohibition) Act, 1986, deals with the prohibition of publication or sending books, pamphlets, consisting of indecent representation of women.