While it is true that technology can empower people, the truth is it is a double-edged sword. This is because there are many young people in this country who lack the maturity to deal with technological advances and they often fall prey to the designs of sexual predators.
For example, take the state of Bihar where there is a new trend in sexual assaults: vulnerable girls are often befriended by men on the internet and then sexually exploited.
Such acts are then recorded on DVDs and then circulated/sold. Recently, a schoolgirl was gangraped in Patna and CDs and MMS of the incident were circulated to blackmail the victim.
We must not trivialise this problem by saying that the state government is not responsible for the safety of girls because the persons who commit such crimes are often known to the victim. I commend the Bihar State Commission for Women for its timely action in the Patna gangrape case, but I condemn the view that such acts of violence against women are acceptable because the girl knew the aggressors.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, in 2011, 10.6% of rape victims were under 14 years, while 19% were teenagers. Offenders were known to the victims in about 94.2% cases. Rape cases are often not reported because of threats from rapists, family pressures and a sense of shame. Unfortunately, many blame women and cite their behaviour or sartorial choices as reasons for being raped. Such views are ludicrous.
In another case, this time in Rohtas, women alleged that they had been photographed with mobile cameras, their faces then morphed on naked bodies and the MMSs circulated. In this case too, the response of the local police was lukewarm and so it was left to the victims, NGOs, civil society and political parties to flag the case. Thankfully due to their efforts and the National Commission for Women (NCW), raids were conducted and the accused arrested. A senior police official assured that he would move court for the cancellation of bail of the accused.
But the question, however, remains: why did the police not take any action before the NCW’s intervention?
Our laws are inadequate to deal with cyber-stalking, cyber pornography, morphing, and no specific mention is made in our laws of ‘cyber’ abuse of women. The NCW is proposing to initiate regional and national consultations on cyber crime and its impact on women, beginning with Bihar.
But I want to pose a few questions: what is the role of the State in curbing this illness before it devours our society? What is the role of the law enforcement agencies in such cases? What kind of value education is the State imparting to its children that instead of being responsible citizens they are turning into depraved minds, sadists and paedophiles?
I might appear a bit judgmental, but I am not trying to prove anything here. Instead, I hope that by expressing my own fears and concerns, states will assume responsibility for the present generation, in order to protect the future generations.
Charu WaliKhanna is member, National Commission for Women
The views expressed by the author are personal