The infinite space of the Internet is being used to draw in victims and, in too many cases, to cause them harm through blackmail or other means
A new dimension has been added to the society. It lives not in our world, not amidst the alleys and narrow streets and pathways of Lahore, but in cyberspace. From this space, people, particularly women and girls, face a terrible threat.
A short while ago, there was a frightening story from Karachi about a child, perhaps still not in her teens, who had “met” some friends online who blackmailed her into sending them explicit pictures of her after ordering her to take them in the bathroom with the doors locked. Their demands grew more and more aggressive and inappropriate. Fortunately, the little girl was brave enough to tell her parents, who reported the matter to the FIA Cybercrime Wing and the police. Others in our country may well have killed the child for her actions; murders on grounds such as these are not unheard of.
The main culprit was lured to the house by the FIA through his victim, and arrested. Others have also been held. But many other gangs are likely still operating. Elderly women report receiving repeated phone calls from young men who insist on using lewd language in their conversations with them. The women do not know how to report the matter or block the numbers.
There are too many children, too many young as well as not-too-young women who do not realise that it is dangerous to post pictures on the Internet without checking their privacy settings.
There are increasing incidents of cyber-bullying and sexual harassment over the Internet. There are too many children, too many young as well as not-too-young women who do not realise that it is dangerous to post pictures on the Internet without checking their privacy settings.
Besides, it’s becoming increasingly common with universities to Google social media profiles of the applicants, and reject them on account of their posts. There are even greater dangers that young people could fall into. Traps are set up by paedophiles and rapists. Some of the victims are trapped online and then lured to a public space, sometimes in the guise of a ‘romantic encounter.’ The growing obsession of our urban-based youth with having a girlfriend or boyfriend, perhaps passed over from western TV shows and movies now so easily available on the likes of Netflix, contributes to this. But it is important that young people be educated about what a healthy relationship consists of. With so many toxic habits normalised, many fail to recognise the red flags early on in a relationship such as passive-aggression instead of forthrightness, constantly blaming your partner, and viewing each other as some sort of an achievement or prize rather than as someone with whom you share mutual emotional support.
In our society, romantic encounters are generally frowned upon. But in today’s age, it is taking a truly violent turn as the infinite space of the Internet is used to draw in victims and, in too many cases, to cause them harm through blackmail or other means.
Laws to prevent such crimes are rarely enforced. As we move into the new year, we should aim to improve the wellbeing of our society on an individual-level, by cutting out toxic relationships, and on a larger scale by raising awareness about the rights provided in law to anyone facing blackmail or sexual harassment, both online and in real life.