From “I’ll tell what you did to the teacher” to “I’ll release your private pictures on the internet”, the society has collectively lost its innocence. 

It’s hard to maintain privacy on the internet no matter how many security settings it provides. The least one can expect is that their private moments will remain private, that their loved ones will respect their privacy. However, with an accessory meant to make life easy, (the internet) some miscreants make it hard for others to even exist peacefully in society.

Sharing explicit photographs of celebrities or non-consensual pornography is not new or unheard of but revenge porn is an even bigger problem and not just limited to celebrities.

What is revenge porn?

It is the sharing of private sexual content, either photographs or videos, non-consensually on the internet, usually by former partners, intended to cause distress or embarrassment to the victim.

What is disturbing about this is that it is not only first and foremost, non-consensual, but it’s a breach of privacy and trust. Something private is made public just to harass another person and in many cases, the perpetrator goes a notch higher and even shares the victim’s personal details. People who like living by questionable standards end up judging the victim’s morals and paint their character the worst shade of black as if it wasn’t the perpetrator who did the dirty deed of not only breaking their trust and exposing their private moments to the world but also causing immense mental distress and embarrassment because of it.

Someone who trusted another person enough to share their private pictures or their most intimate moments with them should not have to, under any circumstances, feel that it reflects badly upon their character. Trust is a fundamental thing in any relationship – whether romantic or otherwise. Therefore, no one expects that one day when they are consenting to get photographed or video graphed, by someone they trust, in an intimate setting, those same photos or videos will be released without their consent as revenge against them.

Worse still is when someone gains the victim’s consent dubiously or films or photographs them without their knowledge and then releases these contents to the public to extract favours from them, mostly sexual or monetary.

Is the society tipping towards the wrong side where love and trust hold no values and our senses can perceive satisfaction only from carnal pleasures and money? It might very well be true because the statistics regarding revenge porn and non-consensual pornography are staggering. For instance, nearly 10 million internet-using Americans have been a victim of posts or threats of non-consensual pornography as of 2016 and women are twice as likely as men to be threatened

Recent Cases

In a country where rape is the fourth most common crime against women, it is hard to imagine that the women are safe from the evil of revenge porn just because the newspapers don’t scream about it in their headlines. The truth is revenge porn is on the rise in India and it is fuelled by the growing spread of social media and the cloak of anonymity it offers. There are an estimated 3000 revenge porn websites worldwide. It is a misuse of the internet thus making it a cyber-crime too. 

However, in a recent case, an Indian Court set a precedent in revenge porn by pronouncing judgement in the victim’s favour in the case of “State of West Bengal v Animesh Boxi” ( January 3rd, 2018 ). 

With easy access to the internet and social media, people take to popular websites to vent out their anger without thinking about the consequences of their actions, or in fact, being fully aware of the consequences and doing it anyway. The problem with these cases is that it is hard to find pieces of evidence of there being “no consent”. The law is, after all, blind and functions only on certifiable evidence.

Legal Scenario

The reason behind there being so many cases of revenge porn in India but only one successful conviction so far is that there is no particular law that specifically criminalizes “revenge porn”. These crimes are dealt with under the provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (Sections 66E, 67, and 67A) read with the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Sections 354A, 354C, 354D, 509).  

International Overview

Since non-consensual pornography is common almost everywhere, many countries have already legislated in this respected or amended their laws.

  • Victoria became the first in Australia to make revenge porn illegal. The laws of the land make it an offence to partake in ‘non-consensual sexting’.
  • In Canada, posting intimate images is punishable by a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment on indictment.
  • Israel is the first country to prosecute those guilty of posting such explicit content as “sexual offenders”.
  • In the Philippines, those guilty of publishing explicit content non-consensually can face imprisonment of a maximum of seven months.
  • In the US, 38 states have criminal laws against revenge porn and the UK has very specific laws regarding this.

It is most certainly “virtual rape”, as stated by the public prosecutor in  India’s first revenge porn conviction case. The victims are mentally harassed by members of the society. 93% of victims of revenge porn have admitted that they suffer from depression.

The need of the hour in India is to reform the existing laws and to criminalize this offence. Globally, social attitude needs to change. Instead of blaming the victims, people should punish the perpetrators for such blatant betrayal of trust. Most social media pages have a “Report” and “Block” feature which should be used whenever any user tries to make any attempt at cyberbullying.  

Lastly, it is important to understand that we shouldn’t push the society to such a point that it becomes terrifying for others to find love and trust in other people because of some ill-advised reprobates. Let love not be tainted.

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