Authored by Aarti Aggarwal
How would you feel if your ex were to put up your intimate pictures online to your horror?
Well, the term revenge porn stems from this very idea. The idea is that ‘a way to get back at’ or ‘take revenge’ on an ex may be to publicly send out nude or sexually compromising images of the ex by means of the web. As the terminology denotes, it is the nonconsensual publication of sexually explicit (nude or semi-nude) images online, as a tool for seeking revenge. The accused generally uses a fake IP (Internet Protocol) address to upload the offensive videos and pictures. The pictures or videos uploaded might be shot with the subject’s consent but the dissemination is actually without his/her consent.
What does the law say?
The Information Technology Act, 2000 makes publication of obscene material online a serious offence. The Act does not recognise revenge porn separately. It deals with the crime under Section 67 i.e. publishing or transmitting of obscene material in electronic form. The crime is punishable with a sentence of up to three years in prison and a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh. If a scene of sexually explicit act has been published or transmitted in electronic form, it becomes a more heinous offence under Section 67A of the IT Act, attracting up to five years in prison and a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh.
If the victim of revenge porn is under 18 years, then the crime is treated as child pornography i.e. publishing or transmitting in electronic form of material depicting children in obscene, indecent or sexually explicit manner. This is punishable under Section 67B of the IT Act with a punishment of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh.
The IT Act, however, does not talk about the right to remove pornographic content posted out of revenge. This becomes highly problematic since a statute that makes something illegal doesn’t really specify the course to cut the problem at root. So while you may have the offender arrested and prosecuted, you will never know if your nightmares are put to rest since there is no mechanism to legally ensure deletion of the objectionable content.
The Indian Penal Code also recognizes stalking, sexual harassment and voyeurism (watching an unsuspecting woman engage in a private act) as crimes punishable with three to seven years in prison as under sections 354A, 354C, and 354D. Revenge porn is both a form of sexual harassment as well as an infringement upon the right to privacy.
When a victim files a complaint, cognizance is definitely taken. The victim can also privately file a defamation case against the accused under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which entails punishment for defamation as imprisonment extending to two years and/or fine. Additionally, the victims can also treat this offence as criminal intimidation and file charges under Sections 504 and 506 of IPC. Moreover, in case of a woman it can be treated as under Section 509 as a word, gesture or act intended to insult her modesty.
Nations, which have passed laws against revenge porn, include Israel, Britain, Germany, and twelve states within the United States of America. There is a dearth of anti revenge-porn laws in India. There need to be a handful of legislations in India specifically dealing with such issues that stop Internet users from posting unauthorized personal material as against the grey areas currently prevalent.
Nonetheless, my advice is be careful what you share and who share it with. If you learn that the some private content has been leaked, immediately report the matter to the police. Now that you know what law you could use to back your case, don’t hesitate to do this as the delay can lead to the pictures or videos going viral on social media or make it tougher to retrieve the images.