Protect Youth From Cybersex Crimes

Battling loneliness and lacking awareness, India’s youth are sharing much more than what is good for them online and becoming the unwitting victims of crimes ranging from sextortion to doxing and more. The prevailing laws, unfortunately, are inadequate

Dr Pavan Duggal

The free spirit of youth restlessly explores the unknown and experiments with the new, and for it, cyberspace is the preferred playground to hang out not only to share views on sexuality online but also to explore different facets of sexuality. Yet, implicitly trusting social media and such-like that crowded cyberspace is fraught with its own risks.

I see many cases of married couples who unthinkingly record their private moments on their devices, apparently for keepsake. But when such marriages turn sour, this very content becomes a bone of contention leading to ugly legal and criminal liability consequences.

The young drop all inhibitions and share their personal and sexually oriented audio, video, text, and images with others, known and unknown, in the online ecosystem without any second thoughts. For many, it is a way to deal with their loneliness. However, this method of channelling loneliness has its downside.

It is important to provide education and training on youth sexuality-related cybercrimes in schools and colleges
It is important to provide education and training on youth sexuality-related cybercrimes in schools and colleges Photo: Getty Images

It’s no wonder that sexuality-related offences have been on the rise among the youth, with sextortion headlining the list of such crimes. Further, publishing nude or compromising photographs on various pornographic and Darknet websites has become a rising trend.

The young freely share their personal and sexually oriented audios, videos, texts, and images with others in the online ecosystem without any second thoughts, falling prey to a host of crimes

Youngsters who fall victim to these cybercrimes realise all too late the folly of sharing their sexual content online, without any guard rails, taking the internet and cyberspace for granted.

The inherent trust in the anonymous nature of cyberspace can lead to many problems. Once sexual content is introduced into the internet, it can be very difficult to escape the negative consequences of being caught in the information whirlpool.

Sexuality related cybercrimes can take a massive toll on the mental well-being and health of the victim. Unfortunately, the legal frameworks in place do not provide much solace to the already demoralised youth. While the Indian cyberlaw deals with offences like online obscenity, publishing sexually explicit content, and child pornography, it does not specifically address a large number of growing and emerging cybercrimes related to youth sexuality.

Sextortion or even doxing are not specifically covered under the law. The act of doxing involves sharing someone’s personal information without their consent to harm their reputation online. Unfortunately, current legal frameworks are not equipped to handle this issue, and there are several other significant gaps that need to be addressed. The courts are increasingly trying to fill the lacunas. The Delhi High Court recently addressed a case of doxing and provided appropriate relief to the victim.

Education and training on youth sexuality-related cybercrimes at schools and colleges will ensure that the young are well-informed and aware of the complex aspects of cybercrimes

The reality is that existing laws are inadequate to deal with such cybercrimes. It is crucial for the government to include youth sexuality-related cybercrimes within cyber legal frameworks. Young people must be educated on the importance of not sharing any sexual content online, as it can be used as ammunition by cybercriminals to target them. We also need to focus on building capacity among young people to help them better protect themselves online. Additionally, victims of youth sexuality-related cybercrimes should have access to effective remedies in order to help them cope with the consequences of such crimes.

We further need to work in a more studied and dedicated manner to ensure the protection and preservation of interest of the youth vis-à-vis their sexuality and to prevent them from becoming victims of sexuality-related cybercrimes. The fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression and the fundamental right to life and personal liberty under Articles 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution, respectively, empower the youth to express their views on sexuality as they deem fit. However, there is a need to sensitise law enforcement agencies on dealing sensitively with sexuality-related cybercrimes.

It is important to provide education and training on youth sexuality-related cybercrimes in schools and colleges. This will ensure that all young individuals are properly informed and aware of the various complex aspects of such cybercrimes. Moreover, young people require appropriate counselling to address their cyber sexuality-related issues. This will help them to be more confident and prepared to deal with emerging challenges in this area.

Preventing youth from being exposed to cybercrimes, and particularly youth sexuality-related cybercrimes, should be the top priority for society and every stakeholder involved. By creating awareness and education, we can empower young people to deal with the challenges posed by youth sexuality-related cybercrimes and their related aspects.

The author is an expert on cyberlaw