Evolution Of Cybercrime: Women, the worst sufferers as usual
The rampant culture of victim-blaming makes it even harder for women to share these issues. No matter who the offender is, the blame will always fall on the shoulders of a woman. This makes them an easy target in cyberspace.
From November 16, 2021, to April 30 this year, Police Cyber Support for Woman (PCSW) wing of Police Headquarters (PHQ) has received around 4,094 cybercrime complaints.
The number was at least 12,641 from November 16, 2020, to November 16, 2021, according to the database.
A study conducted by voluntary organisation CyberLine shows that around 79 percent of social media users fall victims to cybercrime.
"We are now getting only valid complaints in the PCSW wing. Earlier, there were several false alarms. Awareness regarding the issue is also being created among internet users," said Mir Abu Touhid, assistant inspector general of PHQ, under whose supervision the PCSW wing is operating.
In an alarming number of complaints, the victims are women and children, exploited, blackmailed and bullied in cyberspace, despite the existence of multiple platforms and dedicated units of law enforcers to protect them from such crimes.
COMPLAINTS GO UNADDRESSED
Sumaiya's (not her real name) Facebook and WhatsApp accounts were hacked in January.
The hacker sent multiple texts to her friends and family members through social media, asking for money. She immediately communicated with a local police station and filed a general diary.
She even contacted PCSW but to no avail.
"I have not received any positive support from law enforcers," she said while talking to this correspondent.
This incident is far from being isolated. A study by CyberLine found that complaints filed by around 83.98 percent of female cybercrime victims were left unaddressed.
The study was conducted on March 25 among 1,280 Facebook users, aged between 16 and 30 years.
Shahriar Siddique Shawon, head of survey & analysis at CyberLine, said law enforcers have a dedicated unit to address cybercrimes. "But they often take way too long to address the issues. Due to the rampant culture of victim-blaming in our society when it comes to crimes against women, even the families of the victims don't support them," he said.
Shawon suggested ensuring quick response by law enforcers, easy access to cybercrime units and families' awareness in this regard.
Lack of victim support and expertise in cybercrimes at police stations, and fear of retaliation discourage victims from filing complaints, said Salma Ali, president of Bangladesh National Woman Lawyers' Association.
"Law enforcers need to ensure proper monitoring and training to increase efficiency in dealing with such cases," she added.
However, AIG Mir Abu Touhid said law enforcers always address such complaints with utmost priority even at ungodly hours.
"We are also arranging training collaborating with different stakeholders, government and NGOs to create awareness regarding cybercrimes," he said.
Touhid suggested that victims should contact the special desk for women, children and elderly people available in every police station.
VICTIMS BY FAMILY?
The entire cybercrime situation is way too horrendous for women as it seems. But the reality is a shade grimmer.
Some recent case studies reveal a new pattern. Female victims of cybercrimes are regularly harassed online by their family members.
Take 16-year-old Papia (not her real name) for instance.
In January, Papia found out that a fake Facebook account has been posting offensive edited pictures with her face on them. Due to the prevailing social stigma that works against women in such cases, her family was almost ostracised from society.
Papia's family filed complaints to the local police station and PCSW. During the investigation, PCSW found that it was a cousin of Papia who was posting the photos using a fake ID.
Nusrat Jahan Mukta, additional deputy commissioner of the cyber and special crime division, said victims should share the issues with families first and then ask for support from local police.
She also suggested that they contact specialised police units working in this regard.
MANY REMAIN UNREPORTED
According to PCSW database, around 5,298 female victims took no action or stopped providing detailed information regarding their cases after a while.
Case in point: Nila (not her real name), who met an expat living in the Middle East on social media.
They got married in private, but life was not what Nila was hoping for. She soon discovered that her husband was having an affair and divorced him.
Her ex-husband then opened multiple fake social media accounts with her name and started sharing her private photos.
However, Nila only filed a GD and refused to file a case, for fear of social ostracisation against her and her family members.
The culprit, who was captured after the complaint, was released upon signing a document pledging not to repeat his actions.
AIG Mir Abu Touhid said victims have to speak up to put an end to such crimes.
But the reality is quite different.
"In most of these cases, female victims just want a solution to the problem. But they want to share much information, hence opt not to take any legal action," said Monira Nazmi Jahan, convener of the research cell of Cyber Crime Awareness Foundation.
"The rampant culture of victim-blaming makes it even harder for them to share these issues. No matter who the offender is, the blame will always fall on the shoulders of a woman. This makes them an easy target in cyberspace," explained Monira, also a senior lecturer of law at East West University.
Monira suggested against the sharing of private content with anyone online and emphasised the importance of family support.
"Without support from her family, a woman can't carry a legal fight for long," she said.