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A Systematic Insight on the Concept of Revenge Pornography: and Protecting Laws


INTRODUCTION

The growing trend of becoming an influencer on social media has instigated people to do acts which can prove to be deteriorating for an individual’s self-esteem and social presence. It can be referred to as, the detrimental effects of growing technology whose sole purpose is to increase social connectivity. The society in which we live has become quite submissive to this social media paramountcy which at last compels an individual to do act which are against the designated public morals and ethics. One of such acts which results in the above-described circumstances is of ‘Revenge Pornography’, in this a person circulates an obscene or indecent images or video clips of the ex-spouse or ex-partner on social media or online connectivity domain with an intention to take revenge due to any personal conflicts or animosity. In most of the cases related to revenge pornography, the victims are female; with the reason being specific i.e. the patriarchal mindset of the society.

Revenge pornography has its own kind of ill-effects which leaves the victim in a traumatic or mentally unstable situation, which in some cases force the victim to go for suicidal or life-threatening attempts. The scenarios that impels someone to do such obscene acts can be of any sort i.e. due to a continuous period of disturbance (multiple reasons) between the partners, to take revenge because of the disturbing period, to prove your point in relations with your spouse’s behavior etc. The laws to keep on check on such acts which are in a productive stage i.e. they are taking their form as a full-fledged law. In some parts of the world like in US or Great Britain they have adopted strict laws but this is not the case in many other countries like, for example; in India there is no codifies branch of law to deal with such cases but a conglomerate of different penal and cyber laws, that protect the right of the above-mentioned victims.


THE CONTEMPORARY STATUS OF WOMEN IN REFERENCE WITH THE INTERNET DOMAIN

With the inception of human civilization, women were always treated in an inferior way in comparison with their male counterparts. They were always kept under seclusion from other worldly affairs and were not allowed to put-forth their opinion strongly in matters related to social affairs. As the society got developed and advanced, things started to change a bit and now the women were starting to establish a good ground in the day to day events. Now, in the contemporary times the rights of women, child and other weaker sections of the society are perfectly preserved and implemented, but due to some orthodox and conservative approaches followed by the society at large this discriminatory distinction still exists; and its direct implication is seen on the various internet and social media domains which leaves no stone unturned in demeaning the female gender.


The harassment faced by the female gender on various online spheres is increasing day by day, as they are exploited openly on these social media platforms or servers. For Example, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a minor girl’s photograph was surfed on the internet by a stranger claiming her to be his love. According to, Association for Progressive Communication (APC) the age group of around 18-30 years is the most vulnerable to these gender-based e-harassments (after analyzing seven prominent countries). The United Nations calls such prejudiced actions against women’s as – ‘Gender based violence against women’. A poll was conducted by Amnesty International in around 8 countries which showcased that almost 23 percent of the total women population in these countries has at least for once experienced such online harassments.

The issue of rising incidents in the above discussed acts, if not checked immediately, could cause harm to the well-established idea of social stratification. And, it could only be done with help of the combined efforts of general public and governmental authorities. The laws drafted by these authorities must be followed diligently by the common people in order to curb out such acts and they must spread awareness about the ill-effects of such acts which could help other people to refrain themselves from participating in the conducting of such acts.


UNDERSTANDING AND DISCUSSING THE CONCEPT OF REVENEGE PORNOGRAPHY

If one wants to understand the concept of ‘Revenge Pornography’, the person should necessarily understand the meaning and distinction of Consensual and Non-consensual pornography. These terms are very essential, to clearly figure out what actually revenge pornography is. According to Oxford Dictionary, Pornography means – ‘Printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate sexual excitement’. To be precise, the definition talks about the feeling of sexual excitement in relation with the viewer of the pornographic content and not the people who are actually performing the act. The term consensual pornography depicts the act of pornography which is in itself pornographic, even before it is published or released. On the other hand, non-consensual pornography is a term with vast scope of specificity as it includes revenge pornography, non-voluntary pornography etc. Some experts describe that both the terms i.e. non-consensual pornography and revenge pornography stands at equal footing if judged on the basis of its meaning.


The meaning of the term revenge pornography is not that complex, it is as simple as the name speaks. It can be defined as the sharing or circulation of any private or intimate images or videos on any of the social media or Information and Computer Technologies (ICT) by an ex-partner (in most of the cases) to take some kind of revenge from their partners. There are also cases when these activities are done by stalkers or hackers and just for the sake of entertainment, without involving any aspect of revenge or vengeance. The most defenseless gender which is exposed to such threats is the female gender (the reasons have been discussed in the above headings). The reports published by Cyber Civil Rights reveal that almost 90 percent sufferers are women. These kinds of act have one thing in common, which is the mental intention of the culprit to cause harm or embarrassment to a particular victim. It also reflects a hidden fact i.e. instant-modification in the field of ICT and various social media domains may lead to unwanted and undesired outcomes, which is enough to harm the very cultural fabric of the society.


There was a survey conducted by BBC England which showcased that out of the people involved in these activities; almost 30 percent were under 19 years of age, the average age of the victim was around 25 years and lastly the social media platform, which was majorly used in the application of such activities was Facebook. Cyber & Law Foundation (an NGO situated in India) released a survey, which showcased that 27 percent of the people whose age lies between 13 to 45 has experienced these acts for at least once in their life time.


The population which is addicted or attached with revenge pornography consists a large part of the netizens all around the globe, even after being a subject of disgust in the eyes of ‘Equity, Justice and Good Conscience’ this field is gaining public popularity and attention as well; with the creation of a solely revenge porn-based site in 2008, there are almost 3000 sites which consists of revenge porn-based materials surfing on them. Some of the prominent websites related to revenge pornographies are IsAnybodyUp, Ugotspoted, Revenge Porn Net etc.


CONSEQUENCES AND REPERCUSSIONS OF REVENGE PORNOGRAPHY

The act of revenge pornography, might seems to be a less serious act; but in reality, it is an extremely grave action which can totally ruin the victim’s life and can force him/her to take unnecessarily and life-harming steps. The approach of a person in dealing such situations varies from person to person; some people cope-up with such pasts, but this is not case with everyone; as there are people who are not that strongly willed that they forget everything and move forward in their respective lives. A study shows that almost 50 percent of the victims of revenge pornography, experience day to day cyberstalking and 85-90 percent of the people who were targeted by the culprits suffered from mental and emotional breakdown for very long period of time. Now, to point out some of the noticeable after-effects of revenge pornography; they are as follows: -

  1. It affects physical and the mental growth of the individual and especially in cases of young culprits.

  2. These acts accompany with themselves several other acts which leads to straight-out abuse of the victims.

  3. The affected person gets totally shattered as he/she is always look down-upon in the eyes of an ethically monitored society, which starts to humiliate and demean that person for something of which he is not at fault.

  4. Victims self-confidence and self-reputation starts to get diminished with passing days and gradually it seizes to exist.

  5. The person starts to question his/her sexual characteristics, which can cause a very detrimental affect to his physical health.

  6. The person becomes hyper-sensitive and over-suspicious in relation to the smallest of issues; these kinds of people have major trust-issues with their future spouses and partners.

  7. The victims of revenge pornography face a lot of threats i.e. getting calls from stalkers, cyberstalking, people threaten them to participate in immoral activities etc.

  8. Out of all the serious impacts of the act, employment is something which cannot be ignored at all. Victims are either conveyed directly or in some cases forced indirectly to leave their jobs.

  9. People who go through such situations, gets so much indulged in self-introspecting themselves, that they end up being a demotivated personal; which lasts with them till they end of lives

  10. And finally, the most horrific implication of these acts, is the – suicidal tendencies which starts to develop in the lifestyle of the victim, and if not checked at the right time, may result in pre-mature deaths.


REASONS BEHIND THE COMMISSION OF THE DISCUSSED ACTS

The most distinguishing factor between a human being and other species (persisting in the ecological world) is the sense of emotion and self-control that is present in a human being since his/her birth. Human being lives in a sociological world, and to co-habit with others, a lot of mixed emotions are felt by them. One such kind of emotion, is of ‘Revenge’ which is very relevant in understanding the reason behind the act of revenge pornography. The most lethal combination is of short-temper and the feeling of revenge, which can totally make a sane person go insane and can push him/her to do acts which are completely against designated norms of the society. Whatever be the mental condition of the culprit (behind the act), but one thing is definite that it is outside the zone of ‘being normal’, because the commission of such acts require a very destructive set of mindset with an ulterior motive to either cause harm to the victim or to have some kind of entertainment by putting someone in a troublesome zone. To point-out some of the prominent reasons behind these acts, are as follows: -

  1. When a person’s relationship with another person gets ended, due to reasons concerning of ego clashes and conflict of thoughts, instils a feeling of disgust amongst the partners and they try to get back at their partners with a feeling of taking revenge. This feeling is only satisfied with the publication of obscene photos or videos on the internet domain. According to, Afroditi Pina from the Department of Forensic Physchology at Kent University, has detailed out an inference after analyzing the perspectives of revenge porn victims and of the culprits as well i.e. all those who commits such acts have a state of ignorance in relation with the general emotion of ‘Empathy’ as they always wear a self-made armor which absorbs the sense of repent or guilty, which a culprit must have.

  2. There are some other reasons as well, which give birth to these pornographic acts, like for example – free time stalkers, who are targeting and blackmailing innocent individuals for the sake of self-entertainment without thinking of the consequences it could have. It is not always about taking revenge but sometimes it is only about distressing others unnecessarily with an intention to cater some kind of advantage for themselves like earning money from such publications, as a source of enjoyment (the people who feel satisfied at the cost of troubling others) etc.

  3. The sudden growth of the porn-industry is having also played a considerable role in the acts of revenge pornography. It all would have not been taking place, if there was no concept like porn. Th people are getting addicted to the explicit contents and the craze for these improper clips and photos is increasing drastically in the minor’s i.e. below 18 years of age and in some cases even less than 12 years of age. Porn videos motivates the culprits that they have sources via which they could get revenge from their ex-partners by disclosing their intimate or personal activities on these porn portals. There was survey conducted in US, Germany, Canada and Sweden of almost around 3000 students on the subject of sexual activities on the internet; and the survey revealed that around 77 percent of the students were having sexual enjoyments and around 90 percent accessing sexual content on the net.

  4. Then there some miscellaneous reasons as well, which somewhat compels a person to do these acts, because it gets installed in their day to day habits. Things like their family background, the residing locality, how the family responds among themselves in the times of need, the average family income, persons personal friend circle etc. are some of the factors which play a major role in the present mindset of the person. If a person go for the commission of such acts, makes it quite clear that some of the above discussed conditions were not in favour of the culprit.

  5. One of the hidden reasons, which is not given much importance is the – lack of proper set of penal laws, which in turn boosts the morale of the offenders in conducting such crimes not once, but even twice and thrice as well.


PROTECTING LAWS AND THE MODIFICATIONS REQUIRED IN THEM

Crimes are mostly committed when there is a lack of proper governing laws. The perpetrators feel safe and secured at the time of the commission of the act, as they found nothing to be worried of, as because there is nothing drafted in the penal provisions of the particular country, which would keep a check on such activities. Therefore, the most essential factor to keep a vigilant eye on such criminals is a proper set of rules in consonance with appropriate controlling measures, to make out the best possible implementation of these rules or laws.

Philippines became the first country in 2009 to penalize non-consensual pornography, with punishments ranging till 7 years if imprisonment. After it, Israel also criminalized the same; with granting punishments till 5 years of imprisonment. Countries like Japan, England and Germany has also criminalized revenge pornography. In Australia, the situation is bit different; as there are no specific laws related to revenge pornography but there are general laws related to online harassment which covers the acts of revenge pornography. The scenario in USA is also very unique, District of Columbia and almost 27 states have laws to ban non-consensual pornography but remaining states have a general set of rules to check the menace of revenge pornography.


Position in India – There are no particular provisions for the act, that are followed in the country to penalize such offences but there are some set of laws, which in conglomeration can prove to be working efficiently and a full-proof manner, like for example; In Indian Penal Code, 1860 – Section 504 and 506 – Criminal Intimidation, Section 500 – Defamation, Section 354-A – Sexual Harassment, Section 354 – Outraging the modesty of women; then in The Information Technology (Amendment) Act of 2008 – Section 67 and 67-A – criminalizes any broadcasting and distribution of any obscene and coarse visuals and Section 66 -E – checks the acts related to the infringement of privacy. All these laws, were made applicable to punish an accused from Midnapore District of Bengal, where the accused was punished for 5 years with a fine of rupees 9000 for circulating intimate images of a girl online.

Necessary Modifications in Laws

  1. The focus should be on intention of the accused before convicting them, and to make it possible the best approach would be to cover all the related acts under the umbrella of non-consensual pornography.

  2. The punishment should totally suit the act done by the perpetrator i.e. if the publication consists of some personal info – he/she can be punished less intensely but it would vary if the published details are carrying too much info of the victim

  3. Relief provisions should also help the male victims, as most of the laws are tilted towards the protection of women rights.


CONCLUSION

The crime of revenge pornography is like a disease i.e., if not checked in a particular spam of time, it will get more harmful and can be prove to be fatal as well; in the same way if revenge pornography is not corrected in the coming years, it would give birth to a spine-less society lacking every kind of basic ethics and morals. Now, this can only be done by planning out a systematic approach of countervailing such acts. The government must incorporate stricter laws to control and deter the criminals, youth should be well acquainted with all the sexual nuances via incorporating sex education to them, people should be informed about implications on the victims which accompanies such crimes, perpetrators must be punished adequately – that would help the person to become a responsible citizen of the society with a moral sense of responsibility towards each other.


REFERENCES

1. John R Ville, Revenge pornography, available at: https://www.mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/1532/revenge-pornography

2. Jessica Valenti, Women’s experiences of violence, available at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/research/2018/03/online-violence-against-women-chapter-3/,

3. Marthe Goudsmit, Revenge pornography: A critical analysis (2017) (Leiden university).

4. Peter Sherlock, ‘Revenge Pornography Victims as young as 11: Investigation’, BBC NEWS, April 27, 2016.

5. The Indian Penal Code, 1860.


Submitted by: RACHIT GUPTA

Course: BBA.LLB (H)

Final Year (10th Semester)

College: Fairfield Institute of Management & Technology (GGSIPU)


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