The Digital India Bill should help us fight against gender injustice

Source– The post is based on the article “The Digital India Bill should help us fight against gender injustice” published in “Mint” on 23rd June 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of the vulnerable sections.

Relevance – Technology Facilitated Gender Based Violence

News – India’s Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act) is being updated as the Digital India Bill. The article argues that it could provide an internet-age framework of governance to secure the vulnerable.

What is Technology Facilitated Gender Based Violence (TFGBV)?

The increased exposure of personal lives on the internet and enhanced user data sharing has led to the emergence of Technology Facilitated Gender Based Violence (TFGBV).

It is motivated by the sexual or gender identity of the target. It involves the misuse of technology in order to harm, threaten, coerce, stalk or harass another person.

Perpetrators of tech abuse misuse devices, accounts and software or platforms to control, abuse, track and intimidate victim-survivors.

What is the impact of existing social norms and gender digital divide on Technology Facilitated Gender Based Violence?

Existing social norms and widening gender digital divide increases the vulnerability of groups already vulnerable to online violence.

Women’s access to the internet is mostly regulated by male members of the family. This leads to lower reporting rates as survivors fear that reporting may lead to restrictions on internet access.

Independent women who voice their opinion online are seen as challenges to the social structure and thus more vulnerable to violence. This makes them indulge in self-censorship.

What is the need for the Digital India bill?

India’s present legal frameworks are not equipped to tackle internet-based harms.

The Indian Penal Code, 1860, and the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, were enacted to address physical harms, but they are also being applied in the online space.

The Information Technology Act, 2000, was promulgated in the early days of the internet and as such unable to deal with recent nature, forms and volume of online violence.

None of these laws specifically addresses the issue of gender violence in tech space.  Moreover, in our legal system, physical harm is taken more seriously.

What are the concerns regarding underage users?

There are concerns about their safety and privacy. Countries like the US have undertaken legislative interventions to ensure accountability from internet companies towards underage users.

The Digital India bill must also incorporate similar approaches to safeguard the safety and privacy.

Technology space is continuously evolving. A coherent and concerted action with clear responsibility of each stakeholder can help in creating a victim-centered mechanism.

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