In recent years, the bystanders on their phone, instead of calling the police, are capturing the sexual offense that takes place in our society. They can easily misuse these videos by releasing them on social media. There was a case a woman was raped in broad daylight in Visakhapatnam by a truck driver. A person made a video of the incident instead of calling the police or intervening/helping her, while others simply walked by.
The bystander’s motive of taking videos is highly inspired by “egoism helping tendencies rather than having the altruistic form of helping”. This is due to bystander’s effect, where they are either diffusion of responsibility or cohesiveness or they don’t feel competent to help the victim but is it even justified to take videos of such offense? The act consequently infringes the right and privacy of the victim who has already been through a trauma. Videography of sexual offenses may be used as evidence in a crime, where the person becomes the witness but many such videos if held back would lead to voyeurism.
A comparison can be made between ‘bystanders and witnesses’. ‘Bystanders are people at the crime scene who does not tend to participate in any form and in recent years they remain the same except taking videos of the crime scene’ and ‘Witnesses are the bystanders who participate in some form, maybe by assisting the police as providing witness statements, helping judiciary to proceed the case towards justice’. Witness is one of the facets of the bystander. In general, bystanders/witnesses provide prodigious safety to the victim in a crime.
Misuse of Videos by Bystanders or Witnesses
These videos can be highly misused if released on the social media. This could even push the victim into a trauma and force the victim to commit suicide. It is like second-harassment or re-raping the victim.
The mental trauma of the rape victim is examined by using the Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS), which helps the doctors to find out eleven physical symptoms of the survivor, eighteen behavioral symptoms, and seventeen psychological syndromes. The psychological syndromes of the rape survivors are so sensitive and vulnerable that the doctors find it really difficult to even aid her. The rape survivors have to endure such syndromes. Subsequently, if a bystander releases such videos on social media, it would cause a second Rape Trauma Syndrome to rape survivors.
How Witnesses or Bystanders Become Accomplice of the Accused?
The more we research on this issue more we are exposed to the dark side of our society. A very disturbing example of the shameful practices in our society can be that of the dark trade that is being practiced in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. The videotapes consisting the act of the sexual offenses (rape) are being sold and bought for a mere amount of Rs.20 to Rs.200.These videos are not made with the purpose to sell but to torture the woman so that they don’t go up to the police. Nothing can be more disgusting, where they sell the dignity of the woman at such cheap price. This display dominance and extortion.
Succeeding aspect would be ‘witness turning hostile’, which is a huge diminution in solving the case. ‘Kailas v state of Maharashtra’ was another case in 2011, where 11 witnesses are turned hostile due to the power and influence of the accused. What if such hostile witnesses make videos of the said offense? This is like holding the life of the victim and not just the video.
When bystanders release such videos on social media, this will act as a material for people who are searching for such videos and amount to voyeurism under section 354C of Indian Penal Code, which will attract punishment on first conviction for a term which shall not be less than one year and extend up to three year, and on a subsequent conviction it may extend to seven years with/without fine.
During the examination of the witness by police, Provision of section 161 under criminal procedure gives protection to women, where in case of sexual harassment, statement of a woman against whom the offense has been committed is recorded by woman police officers. If the law is providing protection for such an offense then why is there is no provision providing for protection against the making of sexual harassment videos being taken by bystanders?
Laws Against Recording Sexual Crimes
Even under Information Technology Act, 2000, taking pictures or videos of a person without their consent is prohibited. Usually, victims in such situations are in such helpless positions, where consent is not even a significant factor. Making such videos would infringe the right of the victims.
A moral concept of protecting the victims of the sexual harassment needs to be prioritized in our society. Bystander Intervention programs which are a violation prevention strategy, is one such concept, which will demonstrate people’s mind. Bystander Intervention is like confronting an aggressor and not putting oneself in harm. This program will tell people how to intervene and ‘put the moves’ in case of sexual offenses and also how they should stop bystanders from making such videos. They shouldn’t just stop due to Audience Inhibition. In such circumstances, people should give preference by helping the victim, without agitating the soul of the victim. This problem is not just related to India but is a global problem. Also, the Supreme Court guideline to protect good Samaritans might insist people help the victims in sexual harassment cases. A Good Samaritan can become an eyewitness to give evidence and be examined under section 284 and 294 of The Code of Criminal Procedure.
There should be a serious program that makes people think as to what will they do if they ever come across such a situation.
This above polemic does not include every person in our society. Since videos can easily be shared on social media, people with wrong intentions who are among the common public misuse these platforms for their malicious intent. Bystander Intervention Program equips the community in solving this problem of taking illegal videos by bystanders to a large extent.