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Man getting 5 years in jail for sharing nude video of ex shows India is waking up to revenge porn

In a heartening judgment, a court in Tamluk, East Midnapore, Bengal, has sentenced a 23-year-old man to five years in jail and slapped him with a fine of Rs 9,000 for uploading objectionable pictures and videos of a girl on the internet.

This is likely to be the first case of "revenge porn" conviction in India. The judge has also directed the state government to treat the 20-year-old complainant as a rape survivor and grant compensation accordingly.

According to the police, the girl and the convict had been in a relationship for three years. The nude videos had been shot by the girl herself on her phone, which the man accessed. He then began blackmailing her, after which she called off the relationship. To extract "revenge", he uploaded the video clips on various porn sites in May 2017. To make sure the girl was recognised, he added her name, and her father's name and nickname to the videos.

The videos first came to the notice of the girl's brother. While the distraught girl initially wanted to kill herself, her family gathered the strength to approach the police and press ahead with a legal case.

"I would use this occasion to salute the victim. It needed a lot of courage to withstand two days of vigorous cross-examination in the court that she faced," Bivas Chatterjee, special public prosecutor for CID, told Hindustan Times.

While the girl's courage, her family's support and the law enforcement authorities ensured she received justice, a lot of "revenge porn" cases do not pan out in favour of the victim. Last year in Bengal, a Class 11 student had killed herself after her former boyfriend posted their intimate pictures on Facebook. A few months before that, a 21-year-old in Salem committed suicide after morphed photos of her were shared on social media.

So what to do if you or someone you know finds themselves in a similar situation?

It is not the victim's fault

In a deeply patriarchal society like ours, the first reaction usually is: "What was she thinking to let herself get photographed like that?"

Shame should not stand in the way of a victim's quest for justice. In a lot of cases, the accused access or record such pictures without the victim's consent. Even if they shared them willingly, it is not the victims who should be shamed for trusting someone, but the perpetrators for abusing that trust in the lowest way possible - turning moments of trust and intimacy into weapons to harm someone's dignity, privacy and reputation.

Women often do not approach the police fearing more harassment and humiliation. This needs to change, and can be helped to a great degree by supportive family and friends.

Law enforcement agencies too need to be more sensitive as by discouraging victims from coming forward, they are indirectly helping the accused.

What the law says

"Revenge porn" is circulating someone's intimate pictures and videos without their consent, usually by former romantic partners. Once on social media or porn sites, the pictures can be viewed by millions of people, and it can be very difficult to track down every website on which they have been shared to get them removed. This violates the victim's privacy over and over, in effect meaning her ordeal - and her trauma - never end. In the Midnapore case, public prosecutor Chatterjee called it "virtual rape".

However, there is no law in India that specifically criminalises "revenge porn", and the accused have to be booked under different provisions of various laws.

Under the Indian Penal Code, the accused can be booked for defamation (Section 500) criminal intimidation (Sections 504 and 506), outraging the modesty of a woman (Section 354) and sexual harassment (Section 354A).

Under the IT Act, Section 66E stipulates punishment for violation of privacy. Sections 67 and 67A of the IT Act are against the publishing and circulation of what the act calls "obscene" or "lascivious" content.

However, this can be problematic, as Section 67 states: "If a person publishes or transmits or causes to be published in the electronic form, any material which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it."

Since in a lot of "revenge porn" cases, the pictures or videos are recorded and first shared by the victims herself, technically, they are also liable to be booked for transmitting "lascivious" content.

It is Section 354C, which deals with voyeurism, that comes to the rescue here. It says; "Where the victim consents to the capture of the images or any act, but not to their dissemination to third persons and where such image or act is disseminated, such dissemination shall be considered an offence under this section."

In the Bengal case, the man was convicted under Sections 354A, 354C, 354 and 509 of IPC as well as Sections 66E, 66C, 67 and 67A of ITA 2008.

The prosecution used a range of electronic evidence to secure the conviction. "Reliance Jio provided evidence that their data had been used for the uploads, Google provided evidence that the material had been uploaded from the man's gmail account," Chatterjee told The Telegraph.

Thus, the various, overlapping laws leave too much in the hands of the lawyers and judges of the case concerned to see if the victim gets justice.

Contact websites

Apart from the law, several social media sites allow victims to contact them directly to get images removed. Facebook has a "Report" feature, pornographic websites have policies to remove clips uploaded without the victim's consent, and Google allows users to fill this form to make sure they do not figure in Google searches.

Revenge porn is a terrible betrayal of a person's trust and traumatises them in the worst way possible. While a focused law to target it will help, it is societal attitude that needs to change. Instead of shaming the victim, the law enforcement agencies and people at large need to support them so that the perpetrators can be brought to book.

Courtesy : First Published in DailyO

 
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