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Protecting Women from Cyber Crime – Indian Scenario

Law Centrum

16 May 2022

Robust and aggressive legislation is the need of the hour, intended to be done in impulsive run.


Cybercrime is a global phenomenon, as crimes committed in cyberspace are widespread and target groups are not limited to specific geographical areas. Technology is critical for women's empowerment since it encourages women to be economically stable, learn, express themselves, vent their feelings, and narrate their plight to the world. Nonetheless, technology is a double-edged sword with its own drawbacks. The proliferation of virtual space has created a gender dilemma, with women being significantly disadvantaged in comparison to men. According to an OHCHR research, women and girls were 27 times more likely than men to be harassed online in 2018 [1]. An empirical analysis of internet usage at a global level reveal that India ranks second with 391 million individuals, trailing China and the United States [2]. According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) 27,248 cases have reported in India during year 2018, out of which 4,242 were committed against women [3].

With the rising use and involvement in cyberspace, there has been a sea of expansion in cyber-crime against women. The extent of cybercrime operations to mitigate and prevent cybercrime differs from nation to nation, given the nature, prevalence, and impact of cyber-attacks against women around the world. The factors that contribute for cybercrime includes free hacking/malicious tool on the internet, free availability of counter forensic tools to help the criminals to hide themselves and finally, lack of international jurisdiction. The laws created to address the cyber-crime issues are not in pace with the technology.

Defining Cyber Crime

Cybercrime is an evil having its origin in devices with internet basis including mobile phones, television, computers etc. Cybercrime is an intangible dimension that is very difficult to govern or enforce. In Indian context, cybercrime can be defined as “any act that are punishable by the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act)”. Thus, none of the legislations and acts in India provides for robust definition of cybercrime. Ironically, there is no comprehensive law to deal with the cybercrime whereas India has enacted I.T. Act, 2000 in line with UNCITRAL model. While chapter XI of this Act deals with offences/crimes along with certain other provisions relating to cybercrime, the term cybercrime has not explicitly mentioned in the act. Contrariwise, the legislation defines cyber security as protecting the information stored in computer device and protecting the computer source from unauthorized use [4]. Ostensibly, the act does not categorize cybercrime whereas, it stipulates punishment for certain unlawful act perpetrated through computers.

Some of the common forms of crimes executed in cyber space in global context are: Hacking which means illegal intrusion into a computer without the permission of the owner or the user. E-Harassment – Blackmailing, threatening, bullying and even cheating. Phishing – extracting confidential information such as credit card numbers. Vishing- voice phishing involves call to victims using fake identity fooling you into considering the call to be from a trusted person. Morphing - buying data from website to morph the image. Cyber pornography – even searching for child pornography is a crime. Cyber stalking - pursuing stealthily. E-mail spoofing – sending e-mail to someone from other sources.

Indian Context

Cybercrime is an intangible dimension that is very difficult to govern or enforce. There are various constraint and it is extremely difficult for conventional laws to address the cybercrime related issues. Information Technology Act, 2000 [5] is an Omnibus Act and was amended in December 2008 as the IT (Amendment) Act, 2008 (ITAA 2008) [6], took into effect from 27th October 2009. ITAA 2008 was created by Government of India in consideration of the gravity of the problem the cybercrime poses to the society. The Indian Penal Code and the Indian Evidence Act were also amended to address the fissure between ITAA 2000 and other laws. Section 70B of the act provides that Indian computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) [7] to serve as the national agency. CERT-In serves both proactive and reactive role: to collect/disseminate information on incidents relating to cybercrime, to forecast/alert cyber security incidents and to coordinate cyber incidents response activities [8].

Section 79A of the act has provided that the Central Government may, for the purposes of providing expert opinion on electronic form evidence before any court or other authority specify, by notification in the official Gazette, any department, body or agency of the Central Government or a State Government as an Examiner of Electronic Evidence.

Cybercrime against women and applicable provisions under ITAA 2008 / Special / local laws

1. Section 66A of ITAA 2008 punishes the offender up to 3 years imprisonment or fine for Sending offensive messages through communication service, etc.

2. Section 67 of ITAA 2008 punishes the offender for first conviction – up to 3 years and 5 lakhs and for second / subsequent conviction for up to 5-year for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form.

3. Section 67A of ITAA 2008 punishes the offender for first conviction- up to 5 years and up to 10 lakhs (Second or subsequent conviction up to 7 years and up to 10 lakh) for Publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act, in electronic form.

4. Section 66A of ITAA 2008 punishes the offender up to 3 years imprisonment for Sending threatening messages by e-mail.

Adjudicatory mechanism:

Article 46 of IT act empowers the central government the power to appoint adjudicatory officer to hold enquiry and adjudicate upon the filed complaint of cybercrime. Adjudicating officer is the ‘First Court of Adjudication’ and thus plays a very important link in the entire judicial process. His quasi-judicial authority covers not only the entire range of computer-related contraventions, but also includes adjudging body corporates vis-à-vis any failure to protect data, including sensitive personal data.

There is a huge gulf between the cyber related crime and legal status quo in India. India has not acceded to the Budapest Convention (Convention on Cybercrime), which is the first convention devised by EU to address cyber related issues, for the reason that India was not involved in drafting the convention [9]. Nevertheless, evidencing the surge in cybercrime within the country, India is now rethinking to be a member of Budapest convention. India is one of the 25 member states of Group of Government Experts (GGEs) [10]. GGEs is a United Nation (UN) body created under General Assembly resolution 73/266 which is an international advisory body accountable for regulating the state behaviour towards securing international cyber space. Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) [11] is a parallel body began in 2019 which is open to all nations is in nascent stage. OEWG is a meeting where the member states have deliberations on application of international law and various norms in cyber space. OEWG began last year and likely to publish its report each year. India is a member of OEWG.

In addition, at domestic level, the government and law enforcement authorities are circulating guiding manuals with pictorial representation providing broader view of different crimes committed using cyber space and the target groups, for the purpose of creating awareness among women and children to protect themselves and to facilitate reporting of cybercrimes. The government also periodically organizes various seminars, conferences and workshops to promote legal empowerment of women.

Cyber-crime portal [12]

Government of India has initiated an online complaint mechanism called National cyber-crime reporting portal to report any crime related to cyber space against an individual. The portal has special provision for women and children to file a complaint for investigation by the law enforcement authorities. The main intent of this portal is to facilitate women and children to report their plight without hesitation and to encourage the victims who are hesitant to step on to the police station due to social stigma attached towards it. The key features of the portal are: it has embedded chat bot to guide children and women with regard to their grievance which is artificial intelligence enabled, it has videos on internet safety tips for kids, it has guiding manual on computer crimes and it also has mp3 audios on categories of cybercrime with transcript to aid visually challenged.


Cyber space has created disparity in the society we live in. It confers preferential treatment to men and discriminate the women leading them to walk a tight rope. Pandemic has added another layer to the complexity of cyber security issues. Ban on 59 Chinese app, by Indian Government for safeguarding the security of nation is a specimen to learn that cyber-attack has reached far behind out imagination. In a statement made by UNHCR, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussin during 38th session of the Human rights council, nearly 41% of women have faced online abuse and 24% confronts online threat at global context [13]. However, the reports indicate that, the magnitude of online violence against women is comparatively less, given the India’s second largest position in internet usage. The reason being the Cybercrime cases are unreported due to lack of existing mechanism. To sum up, cybercrimes can be prevented with awareness. Cybercrimes cannot be force-fitted in the present legal frameworks. Need of the hour is robust and aggressive law and this has to be done in impulsive run [14].

References [1] Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Human Rights Council holds panel discussion on online violence against women human rights defenders” (21 June 2018). [2] Max Roser, Hannah Ritchie and Esteban Ortiz-Ospina (2015) - "Internet", available at<> (last visited on 25/07/2020) [3] National Crime Records Bureau, “Crime in India: Statistics Volume II” (Ministry of Home Affairs, 2018). [4] The Information Technology Act, 2000 (Act 21 of 2000), s. 3 [5] The Information Technology Act, 2000 (Act 21 of 2000) [6] The Information Technology (Amendment Act), 2008 (Act 10 of 2009) [7] The Information Technology Act, 2000 (Act 21 of 2000), s. 70B [8] Indian Computer Emergency Response Team, available at: (last visited on July 29, 2020) [9] Expert Speak, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), available at: (last visited on July 29, 2003). [10] UN General Assembly, Group of Government Experts, GA Res 73/266, UNODA, UN Doc A/RES/73/266 (December 22, 2018). [11] UN General Assembly, Open-ended Working Group, GA Res 73/505, UNODA, UN Doc A/73/505 (December 05, 2018). [12] Cyber Crime Portal, India, available at: (last visited on July 30, 2020) [13] United Nations Human Rights council, available at: (last visited on July 30, 2020)

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