• Saturday, Dec 07, 2019
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A naked law

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Digital blackmailing has become easier since legislative implementation is limited

“I have your photos. I am going to spread them if you don’t …” is unfortunately a common threat among the youth.

With Digital Bangladesh comes its fair share of consequences. Digital blackmailing has become easier since legal implementation is limited. In a typical scenario, the youth are constantly threatening others with obscene photos, thinking that there are no consequences.

It has been identified that the social stigma which surrounds having one’s nude photos circulated through social media is one of the main reasons why women hesitate to speak up against their harassers. But not much has been done to comfort victims, or to give them the much needed support to speak up in order to combat this menace to society.

Families, friends, and their closest people are often the ones who are aware of the trauma that victims go through. But while the Pornography Control Act 2012 and Digital Security Act 2018 provide the legal redress in Bangladesh for such unacceptable acts, the number of cases filed to fight this issue has been alarmingly low.

Admittedly, if the victim is unwilling to take legal action, not much can be done to stop people from continuing to engage in such horrendous activities.

In contrast, in a similar case of blackmail in India, the victim did not succumb to the pressure of giving in to the harasser’s perverted demands. She did not wait fearing social stigma, but rather took the bold step of going public regarding the matter. She exposed the harasser through a post on social media and received praise for her courage.

Criticism for standing up and voicing her opinion was inevitable, but that did not stop the victim from seeking help from law enforcing agencies.

Another undeniable issue has been the lack of knowledge of where to seek help when faced with such matters. Rampant digitalization and increased access to the cyberspace has virtues as well as vices.

Cyber harassment and online blackmailing are on the rise in Bangladesh. Women and children are the most vulnerable in this regard. 

Even though most pornographic websites were blocked by the ministry, photos and videos are still circulated. In situations like these, victims feel helpless as they are not aware of how to tackle the situation. Some victims give up and comply with the blackmailers’ demands.

Recently, Al Amin, the head teacher and founder of the Baitul Huda Cadet Madrassa outside Dhaka, allegedly raped 12 school students, the youngest being a 10-year-old, and also blackmailed the mothers into submission by taping the acts on his cell phone.

In such cases, what does one do?

File a complaint at your nearest police station. As the offense is cognizable, the complaint will be lodged under Section 8(1) and 8(2) of the Pornography Control Act 2012, Section 29(1) of the Digital Security Act 2018.

You may also get in touch with a lawyer, and your advocates at “I know, right” can be consulted and are just a click away (https://www.facebook.com/iknowrightbd/).

You can also call the 999 National Emergency Helpline, which is a service under the surveillance of the Bangladesh police force. The 999 number is “toll free” and no fee is charged.

Recommendations

• It is the need of the hour that we create awareness regarding where to complain in the event that we find ourselves victims of non-consensual distribution of private and/or intimate images

• A new piece of legislation could be promulgated that only deals with the non-consensual distribution of intimate images and videos. It should also include offenses like the dissemination of such images and videos through any medium -- be it email, social media, or word of mouth

• Such cases should also be dealt with on a fast-track basis, and a court order should be given immediately to prevent further distribution of images or videos


Thus, it can be concluded that the lack of legal implementation can only be tackled through efficient reporting.

There are various ways to report such cases, but lack of awareness is the main hurdle, along with social stigma which prevents victims from availing the recourses available.

Legal blogs such as I Know Right -- an initiative by London College of Legal Studies (South) -- and the Female Empowerment Movement are striving to raise awareness and pave a path for such victims to find solutions. 

Zaiba Tahyya, Mariha Zaman Khan, Tahsin Noor Salim, and Faran Md Aaraf are contributors at I Know Right.