07 Navigating a DIGITAL WORLD - Jean Saldanha

posted Sep 7, 2017, 1:55 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 7, 2017, 1:55 AM ]
In 2016, police in Maharashtra registered 2,417 cases of cyber crime, of which 928 (38 per cent) were from Mumbai alone! (Hindustan Times)

Cyber crime is very real, even though it happens in the virtual world. The incidence of online abuse and violence results in offline trauma for those victimised, leading many to take the extreme step of suicide. As we push for more and more digitalisation, the question that cyber security agencies are asking is, what are we doing about creating a safe place on the internet where our children, especially girls, can operate freely without fear? Why girls especially? Because, according to a survey by CyberlawTimes.com, 75 per cent of the violence is directed at girls and women.

The UN Broadband Commission, in its report on cyber violence against girls and women, states that online abuse is a reflection of sexist and violent attitudes of people and societies offline. The violence online takes different forms, which includes hacking, identity theft, stalking, bullying, recruitment for trafficking, and defamation. In addition, there is 'revenge porn', which is posting intimate photos or videos of a girl obtained fraudulently, or created by morphing, to publicly humiliate her, even inflicting damage on the target's real world.

It is indicative of Indian societal attitudes that when the safety of girls is discussed, the focus is often on how they should behave and how they should be protected. But protection is not the same as security. Protection is about shielding girls from harm, thereby restricting their free movement. Security is about creating a safe place, where girls can move freely without fear of being abused. For example, the question about the recent Chandigarh incident should not be, why was she out so late, but why is it dangerous for her to be out at that time! After all, it was not a jungle where animal predators roam. So, if the danger is because male criminals own the night, does it not follow that the men who were out at 2 am are allegedly of questionable character? Also, it is the duty of law enforcers and society to ensure public safety for all, not the responsibility of girls to lock themselves indoors. But then, logic and reason have hardly been the measure of patriarchal mindsets!

These days, the homework given to children needs them to research content on the net. This leads them to spend more and more time on the net, and to explore newer websites and content. Also, kids as young as 2-3 years are adept at using mobile phones, and many own one by the time they are 10. The anonymity and unaccountability that the internet offers allows paedophiles, traffickers and bullies to prey on the insecurities of young girls, resulting sometimes in offline violence. There are incidents where girls are coerced into posting sexually explicit photos and videos of themselves by online 'boyfriends' under the guise of private chat, which are then circulated widely, much to the girl's public humiliation.

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