Bulli Bai Sulli Deals Cyberstalking Cyberbullying Image morphing Revenge pornThese are all issues we have heard about very frequently these days, and mostly, they target women. The recent Sulli Deals and Bulli Bai app incidentsboth focused on the sale of Muslim women online as if were just another commodityhighlight just how grave the issue of cybercrimes is, not only in the world, but specifically in India. In 2020, similar concerns were raised when the Bois Locker Room incident emerged. And these are just some of the incidents reported that made major headlines. Yes, these are just the tip of the iceberg that is cybercrimes against women.The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) recently revealed that cybercrimes against women in India have witnessed a huge spike, with registered cases doubling between 2018 and 2020. The NCRB also revealed that complaints lodged for publishing sexually explicit content targeting women online increased by a whopping 110 per cent! The cases of cyberstalking went from 739 in 2018 to 872 in 2020. And yet, the NCRBs data showed that the conviction rate for criminals who engage in cybercrimes against women was only 47.1 per cent, while the conviction rate for cyberstalking and cyberbullying was even lower at 27.6 per cent.Given this state of affairs, it is very important that we all understand what cybercrimes are, how they affect women, and how to prevent or deal with them. Here is everything you need to know.Understanding CybercrimesFirst, its very important to understand that even though they are quite rampant all over the worldespecially since the digital revolution has brought digital devices and the internet within the grasp of most people despite digital gender and rural-urban dividesthere isnt a global definition for cybercrimes. The simplest definition for cybercrime is that it is an unlawful act where a computer is either a tool, a target, or both. A cybercrime can involve theft, fraud, forgery, defamation, abuse and even terrorism. Under the Indian Information Technology Act, 2000, legal action can be taken against any of these crimes once they are committed.But as communications technology constantly evolves, the laws that safeguard our privacy and security must evolve as well. This is the reason why the government regularly updates and amends its cyber laws, and why most companies and even individuals attempt to ensure their digital devices are secure from problems like hacking, phishing, etc. However, cybercrimes perpetrated against women are more complicated.Why Cybercrimes Against Women Need AttentionAccording to a 2015 report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), titled Cyber Violence Against Women and Girls: A World-Wide Wake-Up Call, cybercrimes against women must be viewed within the larger context of violence against women. The report says that the growing reach of the internet, the rapid spread of mobile information and communications technologies (ICTs) and the wide diffusion of social media have presented new opportunities not only to address violence against women and girls (VAWG), but have also enabled the use of the same tools to inflict similar kinds of VAWG.Cyber-VAWG is emerging as a global problem with serious implications for societies and economies around the world. The statistics pose risks to the peace and prosperity for all enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, and, in particular, to the goals of inclusive, sustainable development that puts gender equality and the empowerment of women as key to its achievement, the report states. It also explains that given the sheer volume of cyber-VAWG, the impact on women and girlsand their ability to conduct regular activities for their own benefit, the economys as well as societysis immense too.Threats of rape, death, and stalking put a premium on the emotional bandwidth and put stress on financial resources (in terms of legal fees, online protection services, and missed wages, among others). The direct and indirect costs to societies and economies are also significant, as needs for health care, judicial and social services rise and productivity goes down with the sense of peace and security required for business to thrive. Cyber-VAWG can also have an adverse impact on the exercise of and advocacy for free speech and other human rights, the report explains. Clearly, the need to take these cybercrimes seriously and nip them at the bud is critical for the progress of any and every nation.Types Of Cybercrimes Against WomenTo understand further how cybercrimes against women workwhich can also help us devise methods to prevent themwe must first have a basic knowledge of the types of cybercrimes perpetrated against women. A 2018 Indian study published in the International Journal of Research and Analytical Reviews suggests that usually, cybercrimes against women may take the following forms. Cyberstalking: This involves following an individuals movements across the internet. Sometimes, cyberstalking takes very overt and threatening forms, like when the stalker enters platforms, bulletin boards or chatrooms frequented by the victim and posts threatening, intrusive or abusive content. If the stalker gets the victims email ID or phone number, the matter can also escalate further. Women and children are both targets of cyberstalking, but over 75 per cent of the victims of this crime are female. Cyber-harassment: This involves harassing an individual via emails. The content of the emails may be related to blackmailing, threatening, bullying and even fraud. With the availability of free email and website spaces, along with the anonymity provided by these to a large degree, this form of cybercrime has become quite rampant. Cyberbullying: This involves threatening, demeaning, harassing or use of abusive language against an individual on a public platform. This usually occurs on social media platforms, websites, bulletin boards, chatrooms, etc. Also referred to as online bullying, India has the third-highest rate of this crime in the world, the study says. It also mentions that suicides linked to cyberbullying have also grown in the last decade. Morphing: This involves editing an original picture you have no right to. When an unauthorised user morphs a victims picture and uploads it again with ill intent, usually sexual or pornographic in nature, morphing becomes a cybercrime. This particular cybercrime amounts to the violation of the IT ACT, 2000, and can also be booked under Sections, 441, 290, 292A and 501 of the Indian Penal Code. Cyber-defamation: Posting libellous or defamatory content regarding an individual online amounts to cyber-defamation. To be fair, people of any gender can become victims of cyber-defamation, but women are definitely more vulnerable. Trolling: Trolling is one of the most under-researched areas of cybercrimes, especially in India, where gender-based trolling is rampant on all social media platforms. Trolling usually involves a spate of provocative and derogatory posts that intend to produce a large volume of similar responses against a victim. For many, trolling becomes a reason to quit their online presence completely with the hope of preventing more of the same sort. Others: A recent phenomenon observed globally is revenge porn. A jilted lover or an ex-partner posts sexual content of the woman online in order to defame, harass and abuse her. This is a severe kind of VAWG, and cancels her right to consent as much as her privacy. Even more recently, women from certain communities have been targeted through apps or websites that supposedly sell them. Images and details of these women are posted online with the purpose of trafficking them. This crime too is rather new and violates every right a woman has to her body, identity, security and her right to privacy.Dealing With Cybercrimes Against WomenGiven the wide and grave nature of cybercrimes against women, its urgent that we take steps to prevent and deal with them. The UNESCOs report mentioned above suggests the following steps for individuals, communities and nations. Sensitisation: UNESCO reminds us that while crimes and VAWG are not new, cybercrimes and cyber violence are new. This is why gaining more knowledge and disseminating the same among people is a priority. This sensitisation includes educating the next generation of ICT users of all genders and backgrounds about the gravity of these crimes. It is equally important to educate police and other members of the justice system about the cyber rights of all. This knowledge can enable people to report cybercrimes when they do take place, and make people desist from committing the same. Safeguards: Creating an ecosystem where victims of cybercrimes can get the justice they deserve is very important. Building these safeguards includes ensuring online spaces are secure, creating womens shelters, crisis centres, helplines and engaging educational materials. These measures need to evolve just as rapidly as the internet does, which means it requires constant attention, resources and active participation from ICT industry leaders, civil society and governments. Sanctions: UNESCO suggests that one of the best ways to prevent these crimes is to enable courts and legal systems to enforce compliance by alland if these safeguards are broken, the same legal systems should be empowered to take severe punitive action against perpetrators to prevent future crimes. Once the laws are introduced, they need to be implemented effectively, which is why sanctions cannot work alone, but must depend on the previous two measures.Creating a safe internet for all, therefore, depends on many factors. So, civil society has a responsibility to participate in this movement against cybercrimes against women. What steps do you think we should all be taking? Let us know in the comments.