In India, the population of girls and adolescents is 253 million, as per the UNICEF report, and the sex ratio at birth is 929 per 1000 male children as of 2023. Cyberspace has massively influenced the daily aspects of our lives, and hence the safety aspect of cyberspace cannot be ignored any more. The social media platforms play a massive role in information dissemination and sharing. The data trail created by the use of such platforms is often used by cyber criminals to target innocent girls and children.
On Ground Stats
Of the six million crimes police in India recorded between 1 January and 31 December last year, 428,278 cases involved crimes against women. It’s a rise of 26.35% over six years – from 338,954 cases in 2016. A majority of the cases in 2021, the report said, were of kidnappings and abduction, rapes, domestic violence, dowry deaths and assaults. Also, 107 women were attacked with acid, 1,580 women were trafficked, 15 girls were sold, and 2,668 were victims of cybercrimes. With more than 56,000 cases, the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, which is India’s most populous with 240 million people, once again topped the list. Rajasthan followed it with 40,738 cases and Maharashtra with 39,526 cases. This shows the root of the problem and how deep this menace goes in our society. With various campaigns and initiatives by Government and the CSO, awareness is on the rise, but still, we need a robust prevention mechanism to address this issue critically.
Influence of Social Media Platforms
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were created to bring people closer by eliminating geographical boundaries, which is strengthened by the massive internet connectivity network across the globe. Throughout 2022, on average, there are about 470.1 million active social media users in India on a monthly basis, with an annual growth rate of 4.2 % in 2021-22. This represents about 33.4 % of the total population. These social media users, on average, spend about 2.6 hours on social media, and each, on average, has accounts on 8.6 platforms.
The bad actors have also upskilled themselves and are now using these social platforms to commit cybercrimes. Some of these crimes against girls and women include – Impersonation, Identity theft, Cyberstalking, Cyber-Enabled human trafficking and many more. These crimes are on the rise post-pandemic, and instances of people using fake IDs to lure young girls into their traps are being reported daily. One such instance is when Imran Mansoori created an Instagram account in the name of Rahul Gujjar, username: rahul_gujjar_9010. Using social engineering and scoping out the vulnerabilities, he trapped a minor girl in a relationship & took her to a hotel in Moradabad. The hotel manager raised the suspicion of seeing a different ID & called the Police, Imran was then arrested. But many such crimes go unreported, and it is essential for all stakeholders to create a safeguard regarding girls’ and women’s safety.
Legal Remedies at our disposal
The Indian Legal system has been evolving with time towards the online safety of girls and women. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and the National Commission for Women (NCW) have worked tirelessly to safeguard girls and women to create a wholesome, safe, secure environment. The Information Technology Act governs cyberspace and its associated rights and duties. The following provisions of the IT Act are focused towards safeguarding the rights –
- Violation of privacy – Section 66E
- Obscene material – Section 67
- Pornography & sexually explicit act – Section 67A
- Child pornography – Section 67B
- Intermediaries due diligence rules – Section 79
Apart from these provisions, acts like POCSO, IPC, and CrPC, draft the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, Intermediary Guidelines on Social Media and Online Gaming and telecommunications bill.
The likelihood of becoming a victim of cybercrime is always growing due to increased traffic in the virtual world, which is especially true for women who are frequently viewed as easy targets. The types of cyber crimes that target women have grown, and the trend has not stopped in India. Cyber flaming, cyber eve-teasing, cyber flirting, and internet cheating are some new-generation crimes that are worth mentioning here. In India, women tend to be reluctant to speak up about issues out of concern that doing so might damage their reputations permanently. Without being fully aware of the dangers of the internet, women grow more susceptible the more time they spend online. Women should be more alert to protect themselves from targeted online attacks.