Social media has succeeded in bringing people closer than ever before. Not only can you discover common interests, share memories and connect with old friends, you can also explore the world and its diverse communities of people.
However, the downside to connecting billions is the ease with which one can access people one doesn’t know. Which is where this story begins. With cyberspace booming and the rise of social media users, cyber-bullying and cyber-stalking have emerged as new and dangerous predators in this rapidly-changing landscape. While a lot of it is harmless, there are some truly terrifying cases out there that shed light on the urgent need to curb such practices.
The Indian judicial system was quick to safeguard these new-found lands, by introducing amendments in India’s criminal law in 2013, to include cyber-stalking, harassment and voyeurism. For example, under Section 354D of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), if any person follows a woman and tries to contact her in order to foster personal interaction despite the woman’s disinclination, then he is committing stalking. Or if a person monitors the use of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication by a woman, he commits the offence of stalking. The prescribed punishment for such offences is imprisonment up to three years on first conviction, which could extend up to five years for subsequent offences. Further, the offender shall also be liable to pay a fine.
Also, there are great resources online that help empower citizens to reprimand unwanted approaches. Although legal recourse should be the foundation stone for eliminating such conduct, it can be greatly supplemented by movements and communities that band together for public good.
#NoPlace4Hate started with Facebook and Youth Ki Awaaz, but has been adopted by thousands across the country. And as long as we keep coming together, across genders and backgrounds, we can help keep our online spaces more safe.