Critical Analysis of Cyberstalking on Indian Women as Victims

Shivendra Pratap Singh

Advocate

High Court Lucknow

Article | Criminal Law

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With the advent of the internet and digital communication, cyberstalking has emerged as a significant concern. In India, the situation is exacerbated by a deeply rooted patriarchal system, making women more susceptible to various forms of online harassment, including cyberstalking. This analysis delves into the magnitude of the issue, the challenges faced, and the legislative response.

Prevalence and Magnitude

  1. Growing Incidents: Recent years have seen a surge in cyberstalking cases in India, with women being primary targets. Whether it’s celebrities, journalists, or everyday internet users, women from all walks of life have reported instances of cyberstalking.
  2. Multifaceted Nature: Cyberstalking can range from unwanted messages and friend requests to threats, defamation, and doxxing. The intent often lies in exerting power, control, or inducing fear.

Societal Challenges

  1. Cultural Stigmas: Indian society often victim-blames, especially in cases related to women’s harassment. This mindset can deter women from reporting cyberstalking for fear of reprisal or social ostracization.
  2. Lack of Awareness: Many women, especially from non-urban areas, might not even recognize cyberstalking as a crime or be aware of the avenues to seek redress.
  3. Tech-Savvy Stalkers: With evolving technology, stalkers have become more sophisticated, deploying methods like using VPNs, creating fake profiles, or exploiting other digital loopholes.

Legislative and Enforcement Challenges

  1. Legislation Gap: While India’s IT Act addresses some forms of online harassment, the legislation doesn’t comprehensively deal with all the nuances of cyberstalking targeting women.
  2. Enforcement Hurdles: Even when cases are reported, the police might lack the necessary training or technical acumen to trace sophisticated cyberstalkers. There’s also the challenge of jurisdiction in the digital realm.
  3. Low Conviction Rate: Even when stalkers are identified, the rate of successful prosecution remains low due to challenges in gathering admissible evidence or judicial delays.

Responses and Recommendations

  1. Educational Initiatives: Raising awareness about cyberstalking and its consequences can empower women to take precautionary measures and report instances.
  2. Training Law Enforcement: A specialized cyber cell in police departments can help in the swift resolution of such cases.
  3. Legal Reforms: The existing laws need revision to specifically and comprehensively address cyberstalking. Speedy trials in such cases can act as a deterrent.
  4. Support Systems: Creation of helplines, counseling services, and legal aid specifically for cyberstalking victims can provide the necessary support.

Conclusion

The issue of cyberstalking, with women in India as primary victims, is deeply intertwined with cultural, societal, and technological challenges. While the digital age offers unparalleled opportunities for empowerment and connection, it also comes with threats that disproportionately impact women. A multi-pronged approach involving legal reforms, societal awareness, and technological solutions is vital to safeguarding the rights and dignity of women in the cyber realm.