Smartphones, cheap data become accessories when it comes to sexual crimes against women

Rising sales of smart phones and dropping prices of data have had a negative fall-out. Many convicted rapists have owned up that they had been inspired by internet porn to commit the crime

Diti Bajpai
| Updated: January 14th, 2020

While the Nirbhaya, Kathua, Mandsaur and many other rape cases grabbed headlines, rape is a reality that half of our population lives with every day. The fear of a rapist lurking in the fields, on the way to school, when they go to relieve themselves or even in their own homes is omnipresent for women and girls in rural India. Rural Connection launched a campaign to highlight these cases – which failed to become headlines or hashtags – and in doing so, bring out the larger issues raised by so many individual cases. Join us in our campaign, Raktranjit – Bloodstains

Gujarat: Youth arrested for raping his mother and sister confessed that he had been watching porn on his phone before he committed the crime

Delhi: Manoj Sah, accused of raping and brutalised a 5-year-old, was watching porn at the time of his arrest from his in-law’s home in Bihar

Goa: Security guard Rajkumar Singh confessed to raping Goa photographer-turned-perfumer in her own home after tying her to her bed and showing her porn clips on his phone

Delhi: Their class 10 student daughter was being raped and blackmailed by their neighbour; the family got to know it when a family friend saw a video clip of her being raped on social media

Smartphones and cheap data have become the latest accessories in crime when it comes to sexual crimes against women and minors. Of course, rapists cannot escape the onus of committing the crime simply because they were enticed by bits and bytes on a communication device.

When impressionable minds get addicted to porn at a time when they are not mature, it can lead to crime, warn experts

But the harsh reality is that rising sales of smartphones and dropping prices of data have had a negative fall-out that not many tech czars had envisaged. As the country marches ahead on the communication highway, this is one aspect of this leapfrogging tech that is putting women and children at risk. Many convicted rapists have owned up that they had been inspired by internet porn to commit the crime.

In a country where talking about sex is still considered a taboo, a search of the browser history of almost every second smartphone will reveal shocking truths. If you google “how to…” the predictive text will automatically fill in the rest based on most popular searches and you will be surprised to see that the most popular “how to…” is sex. Data further reveals that India is the world’s first when it comes to countries where porn websites are most visited.

Khadija, executive director of Alternate Space, an organisation working for women’s rights in Delhi, and also an Independent Consultant, reveals, “I have spoken to between 350 and 400 rapists who confessed to me that they had first watched porn and then committed the crime. Now when smartphones are so easily available and data is so affordable, this kind of content is easily accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds. This is leading to crime. Nobody thinks twice before recharging their data packs. And there are easier ways of getting porn now — even if they do not have smartphones or data, they can simply buy memory cards preloaded with porn clips from any corner store.”

Khadija recalls one particular case, “I remember asking one rapist as to why he did it. He said that he and three other friends of his were watching a porn video. After watching the video, they wanted to have sex. So, they just grabbed the first vulnerable girl they found. His friends left him, but he raped the girl. So, it is not really just watching porn that incites the criminals, after all, his friends had also watched porn, but they did not join him in raping the girl. It has to be a combination of a perverted mindset and easy access to porn that is spurring crimes against women. Along with porn, it is our patriarchal mindset that makes men treat women like objects that is responsible for the rising crime graph against women.”

There have been incidences when husbands force their wives to watch obscene videos and ask them to emulate the acts performed in the video, they beat them up if the wives refuse to do so

The Internet and Mobile Association of India and Kantar IMRB has released a report on ‘Internet in India 2017’. According to this report, smartphones are the primary source of internet in rural India and the number of such users is on the rise.

The total number of internet users in India at the end of 2017 was around 48.1 crore. Among the 91.8 crore rural population, 18.6 crore were using the internet while from the 45.5 crore urban population, 29.5 crore were using the internet. But interestingly, while 77% of urban internet users accessed the internet through their smartphones, this percentage in rural areas was 92%. In terms of usage, urban internet users were going online for communication and social networking while rural users were more interested in video and audio entertainment.

Lucknow SSP Surendra Kumar Mishra says, “While the internet has some positive and constructive uses, there are also a lot of negatives. If you use the internet positively, you can accomplish a lot of work sitting at home and also earn money while saving time and energy. But on the flip side, the internet has also made porn more accessible to all kinds of people. Pornography is responsible for the rise in sexual crimes.”

Madhya Pradesh home minister Bhupendra Singh has also said that pornography is the main reason for increasing crimes against women. He has written to the Central Government seeking a ban on porn sites. The MP government has already banned 25 such sites. While addressing a public meeting he said that a study the state home ministry has found that porn has a negative impact on impressionable minds. He said that easy access to these sites drives minors to commit crimes like rape.

Many convicted rapists have owned up that they had been inspired by internet porn to commit the crime

Sitapur district Police Superintendent Anand Kulkarni said, “I have noticed a rise in cases of rape and unnatural sex where the accused are in the 15 to 17 age group. This is an age when there is a lot of sexual curiosity, but very little sexual understanding. So, they gather whatever they can from different sources like television and internet. To this half-baked information, they attach some meaning and get excited to attempt such crimes.”

A volunteer at the Sitapur district 181 Women Helpline centre, set up to help women who are victims of violence get medical, legal and psychological assistance, Ruchi Dikshit, recalls a case. “Some months back, a woman came to us complaining that her husband would force her to watch violent and obscene videos and make her emulate the acts performed in the videos. If she refused, he would beat her up. When she came to us, she was in very bad shape. We filed an FIR against her husband and the matter is in court. While this case came forward, there are many that do not.”

Indicative of how the internet is used, in the post-Nirbhaya days, internet on mobile phones was used 4.1 million times to search for keywords like “rape”. According to Google Adwords, other keywords most searched at that time were “rape with Indian girls”, “raping video”, “raping story”, “rape in public”, “rape with minor”, “rape with mother”, “daughter raped by father” and “raped to death”.

Lucknow-based psychiatrist Dr Saziya Siddiqui says: “Today, you have access to pornographic material at the click of a button. This is leading to youngsters getting addicted to porn and there is a consequent increase in crime. This crime addiction is slowly becoming an epidemic and this is a matter of concern. If an adult watches porn, he can enjoy it and forget about it. But when impressionable minds get addicted to porn at a time when they are not mature, it can lead to crime.”

She suggests banning certain sites and also advises parents to keep a stern watch on their young children. She further says that sex education should be made mandatory from class five in schools.

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