Revenge Porn Is Life-Ruining Yet We Have No Law To Combat It

Posted by saumya anand in Sexism And Patriarchy, Taboos
February 21, 2017

Modern technology has redefined several aspects of our relationships. For instance, sharing intimate pictures or videos with the person you’re dating or living in with is now a norm and just another way to connect with your partner.

Unfortunately, the misuse of this dating ritual is on the rise, too. Last year, a man in Hyderabad was arrested for posting intimate videos of his now married ex-girlfriend online. He also sent the videos on CD to her in-laws, all because she refused to rekindle a relationship with him. Expectedly, the man was later released on bail.

Come to be known as “revenge porn”, the act of posting or leaking sexually explicit pictures and videos of your ex-partner, usually after a sour break up, is an increasing and worrying phenomenon. A quick google search reveals how common a practice it is, so much so that there are myriads of websites dedicated to humiliating your ex in the most perverse manner possible.

The perpetrator, usually a scorned ex, uses the private pictures or videos to blackmail the ex, or malign their character. This is not only a gross violation of trust and privacy but also a mechanism to subjugate a woman for expressing her sexuality. What many don’t know is that revenge porn is life-ruining, and comes with a huge psychological cost to the survivors, sometimes even leading to suicide. In many cases, the survivor has to uproot her life and move somewhere else due to the stigmatisation in society.

This non-consensual sharing of private pictures is going mostly unchecked because often the survivor doesn’t come forward due to lack of cooperation from the authorities. Even when they do, they are discouraged to move forward at every step of the way, from cops to HR departments (if the perpetrator is within your own company). Many comments under the posts on revenge porn incidents either blame women for being gullible, or slut-shame her. This mentality needs to change and the focus must shift from victim-blaming and shaming to putting the onus on the perpetrator.

On a positive note, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and Microsoft have already banned pornographic pictures and videos shared without consent. Google took a significant step in combatting this transgression by de-listing all revenge porn sites at the request of the survivors. Even those who profit are being penalised. For instance, Kevin Bollaert, who created the site UGotPosted.com for jilted exes to post pictures of their partners and then later charged a hefty sum from the survivors to remove the pictures, was sentenced for 18 years in 2015.

In India, we have sturdy laws to tackle cyber crime; under the amended IT Act, 2000 section 354 [C] of the Criminal Law Act 2013, or the “voyeurism section”, capturing and sharing images of a woman in a private act where she is unaware of being recorded is a crime. Section 66(E) of the Act (which is inclusive to male victims as well) criminalises the publishing and transmitting of images of an individual’s private parts without his or her consent, the sentence for which may extend up to three years. However, there’s still no provision to deal specifically with revenge porn, which brings the efficiency of these laws into question. For instance, there is no provision to help survivors take down material that is already posted.

What is needed is stringent laws and more awareness on the issue. India also needs to have support groups, as well as a dedicated helpline to help revenge porn survivors help them process and address this ghastly act.

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