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Open the mind locks

The recent outing of Bois Locker Room has raised questions about women’s safety online, and about the mindsets of young, urban boys of our country.

india Updated: May 07, 2020 02:43 IST
Nikita Deb and Aparajita Sharad
Nikita Deb and Aparajita Sharad
The revelation about the private messaging group on Instagram has come as a shock to everyone.
The revelation about the private messaging group on Instagram has come as a shock to everyone.(Photo: Shutterstock; for representational purposes only)

The Instagram group Bois Locker Room was outed on May 3 and has since, caused immense outrage on the internet. The private messaging group comprised a number of young boys from South Delhi who would share pictures of girls — many underage — on the group, and speak in a derogatory manner about the girls sharing explicit details and even private pictures of the girls. The worst came when a few of the boys issued rape threats to a couple of girls who exposed them and their chat group.

Legally, a suo moto cognizance has been taken by Delhi Commission for Women against these boys, however keeping legalities aside, experts believe that the problem is much deeper and needs more than just stricter laws or implementation of existing ones to do away with such cases. “A lot of factors go into developing such behavioural traits in young men. The portrayal of women in media, the social environment that these boys grow up in, and of course, the fact that when you are a teenager, your body develops faster than your brain. Hence, teenagers don’t think their actions through. So, these acts are a result of a mix of hormones, neurodevelopmental changes and your environment where you are living,” says Advaita Nigudkar, consultant psychologist. 

Law and order

Sunaina Kanojia, Officer on special duty, Institute of Cyber Security and Law, Delhi University, says that one should be careful of the video calls one engages in since “virtual contact has increased due to the lockdown”. “Many cases that have been reported to us at DU involve a cyber-breach of a student’s personal photo or information by known sources like partners, friends etc. Don’t share personal or intimate photos or videos with anyone at all, even if you know them well. Live chats and videos can also be taped and one must always be mindful of this,” she says.

Anyesh Roy, DCP CyPAD (Cyber Prevention, Awareness and Detection Centre), adds that it is pertinent for youngsters to seek help from parents if they get into something because of peer pressure and realise it is wrong. “Lack of communication between children, and parents or teachers, can prevent children from opening up. Do not for a moment think you can get away after indulging in unlawful cyber activity as digital prints are always left behind on the devices used and many other platforms,” warns Roy.  

Shubham Singh, Cyber Expert, who helped unearth all the bois locker room group participants’ information and contact details, says, “If anyone has been a victim of cyber crime, they should immediately share that with their parents or friends without hesitating. In case of cyber breaches, also contact your local police station or cyber cell. Update privacy settings on your social media accounts. Remember that you can also report anonymously about any kind of crime on the official government cyber crime website.”  

Kavita Mungi, mental health counselor, believes that women need to be made aware of their rights, and everyone should be educated about cyber exploitation, sexting, defamation etc. “We definitely need stricter laws as it will have a strong impact as a deterrent to such deviant behaviour. Women should be aware of the existence of cyber crime cells that they can report to,” she says. Alternatively, Sadaf Vidha, therapist and researcher, says that the problem does not solely lie with the laws. “We cannot just depend on punishment and the legal system as a resolution for sexual crimes. We have to start early with new parents and young boys to break down concepts of gender and sexuality. We need multiple-level interventions, gender sexuality education at each and every level — for adults, kids, and very young kids. The automatic process that we have been following of getting married and having children needs to stop. It has to be a mindful decision to become a parent and then one needs to explain the concepts of body sexuality and gender to kids. There are countries that have extensive programmes like that such as Malaysia and Finland. So, our government needs to look into that,” says Vidha.

How can parents help?

Vidha says that even though, we may have convinced ourselves that we live in a modern society, this incident has shown that we have in fact, just become very good at covering up our sexism instead of getting rid of it altogether. “We need to talk about everyday sexism and patriarchy with our kids which is not happening. We may be equipping our girls more to achieve more in their career, but we have still not broken down emotions, femininity and body to boys. We are also not talking to our kids about how our bodies can be misused by people. The problem is the monster myth which says that there is one bad man or few bad men out there and the rest of us are okay. According to the monster myth, we do not take accountability as a society that at some level we are all contributing to rape culture. Parents also believe that benign sexism and patriarchy that we follow at home is okay as long as somebody doesn’t become a ‘monster’ but this is how monsters are made,” adds Vidha. 
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Dos and Donts

If a minor is making a profile on social media it is advised that the profile be monitored actively by the parent or guardian

Be mindful of the consequences of sharing any personal information or photograph on an online space as it can be downloaded and replicated in minutes

Be aware that people who are part of various groups that are indulging in unlawful activities, even if they are inactive member will be liable to legal action

School and parents must also talk to children about the risks of being cyber bullied or peer pressured in to unlawful cyber activities. They need to be sensitized by schools about what is legally right and wrong. For example, making fake profiles and posting obscene things is an unlawful act — they need to be told about the legal consequences of such acts.

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