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A new form of Voyeurism

Looking at the most basic definition of Voyeurism, we imagine a person being watched while engaged in a private act. The more aggravated form of such Voyeurism has come with the advent of the Information age where the victims are recorded with the new age cameras. With the passage of time, the size of the cameras have decreased so much that even pin hole cameras in screws and buttons are available today. This has helped the perpetrators of Voyeurism easily commit their crimes. Videos recorded are then spread on the internet through various video sharing portals and the victims suffering is multiplied a hundred fold. This has been the scenario so far.

However a new form of Voyeurism has emerged wherein rape and abuse is recorded by the perpetrators on their cell phones and such videos are sold in the markets for a very low price. Very soon such videos become viral on the internet as well and the already traumatized rape or abuse victims are further tortured. A similar situation has surfaced in U.P, India, where rape videos are being sold every day for Rs 20 up to Rs 200 which is as low as $3. The price of such videos depend on their length which may range anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. The videos are sometimes sold by the perpetrators or sometimes extracted from their phones when the phones are handed over for repairs at the local repair shops. The videos are then available with shopkeepers who transfer it via pen drives or directly sent it to the smart phones, reveals a investigative report by Al Jazeera. The sale of such videos is done very secretly and is restricted to the locals alone. The videos are usually recorded with the intention of blackmailing the victim, stopping them from going to the police or coerce them into sexual acts. This all has lead to a 21-year old victim in Bareilly committing suicide after she found her videos online, according to a TOI article. The purchasers of such videos describe them as being even better than pornography. Teenagers are lured to watch these videos promising the "hottest" videos of women they possibly knew.

Another similarly appalling story is that of the Snake Gang in Hyderabad. This gang was notoriously known for using physical force and snakes to scare people (mostly couples). Further they would assault the girl and film the whole odyssey to blackmail the couple. Many videos were sold by this gang and made viral. The gang has been accused of 34 rapes and an overall 37 crimes. Their crimes came to light when a woman filed a complaint against them for raping her in front of her fiancé and recording the rape. In May 2016, 7 members have been sentenced to life imprisonment while 1 has been sentenced to 20 years.

Bengaluru based person - 479 videos on laptop - use contatcs get videos for a small price - supply in market In another incident, a Bengaluru based man was arrested for posting videos of molestation and assault online out of which 9 were rape videos. The man had possession of around 400 such videos in the devices acquired from him.

One Activist Sunitha Krishnan began a campaign called Shame the Rapist wherein she circulated the rape videos she received having blurred out the victims faces. Although well-intentioned, this has resulted in more trauma to the victim due to the increased publicity of such videos. Whatever the intention, the prerogative to disseminate the rape story and the video lies only with the victim. In 2015, Krishnan approached the Supreme Court with eight cases and a CBI enquiry was ordered by the Apex Court. Six out of the eight cases were solved in the consequent investigation.

Once such content is circulating, it is very difficult to stop it. Blocking sites or filtering the contents have many legal blockades and can be easily undone. The solution to these problems is not as simple as a pornography ban or limiting use of the World Wide Web and these videos cannot be labeled as pornography. Pornography is directed and filmed consensually while rape is non-consensual and degrading, even more so when it is recorded and further circulated.

The rise of this crime will surely have the effect of women becoming reluctant to report such crimes. The commercial benefits of such videos act as a crime motivator. In most such cases, a long time will have elapsed since the actual commission of the crime and its discovery. Without victim testimony and medical evidence, the perpetrators can only be prosecuted under the IT Act for publishing offensive content which has a maximum punishment of 2 years and the rape and abuse is taken into account. What is even more disheartening is that there is no specific law which touches this offence of Voyeurism in detail. It is the effort of our NGO to bring to light the various kinds of offences of Voyeurism and prevent and redress such incidents by pushing for enactment of a new law on Voyeurism.

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