Sexual exploitation is a global problem which is like cancer existing
everywhere, in all developed developing, and underdeveloped countries. Sexual
exploitation is done in several different forms, and sextortion is one such form
evolving into the grey area of the laws dealing with sexual offenses. The
offense of sextortion is not defined under any Indian statute or laws, hence,
inadequate in combating this serious crime. There are several methods to give
effect to sextortion be it in a form of extortion or corruption, whether it is
done physically or in non-physical mode.
Since social media has become a daily destination for a majority of people, the
wrongdoers are using these platforms as a weapon to commit the crime. A set of
fear is created of making the intimidating picture public, under this danger of
leaking sexually suggestive material, victims are made to do certain things at
the perpetratorís desire, hence it becomes imperative to take certain steps to
curb this extensively growing crime. The greatest requirement is the proper
education, along with a specific legislation covering this crime, then only such
damaging attacks could be deterred or, at the very least lessened.
Etymologically, Sextortion is the combination of two words sex and extortion.
This is a form of sexual abuse. Also, there are many methods to execute such
crime, one of which is cyber sextortion. This crime takes place through various
social media platforms, where perpetrators make fake profiles, then they try to
form tight relations with their potential victims.
Once confidence has been
established, they encourage their victims to provide nude photos or videos,
lures the victims, and make them produce some sexual content, or takes the
victimís explicit images.
Once they get such images or videos then these
perpetrators either extort money by threatening victims of the public release of
those images or make them produce more sexual content. This cycle continues and
ends either with the tarnished reputation of victims or the victims themselves.
Sextortion is not limited to a gender-specific, nor to any age group. Although
youth is largely engaged at social media platforms, chatting apps, and dating
apps, become more vulnerable and easy prey to the offenders. They do not realize
the danger of being a victim until itís too late.
Impact of sextortion on victims
Due to the fear of dissemination of the sexual content, the victims get stuck
into a never-ending demand cycle of the offenders and almost become their
slaves. This mental assault leads to depression and shame. The trauma victims go
through is unimaginable, and such depression comes out through their actions,
thoughts, and behavior. It may have a devastating impact not only on the victim
but on the entire family of the victim.
The risk of publishing and exposes of
said sexual content is perpetual. Hence, the victims live at the mercy of the
They often feel lonely and isolated and get engaged in self-harming activities.
Such as experimenting with a toxic substance. Such depression shame and
self-guilt sometimes go extreme and victims endanger their own lives.
Amanda Michelle Todd
Todd a 15-year-old student became a victim of sextortion. Who hanged herself at
her home, after the perpetrator disseminated her topless image on social media,
which destroyed her public image. She several times attempted suicide and
eventually killed herself.
Avinash committed suicide after a continuous demand for money by an organized
gang engaged in sextortion. The gang met Avinash through a fake attractive
profile of a female. She coerced him to perform certain sexual conduct in
confidence. This was recorded, and on account of this recording, the ransom was
demanded. In fear and shame, he did not report this crime and complied with all
the demands. Despite the several payments made to this gang, this blackmailing
never ended, until Avinash committed suicide.
How can you prevent yourself from falling prey to sextortion?
It is not very tough for the users of social media to prevent themselves from
being a target of the offenders. You by being a little more diligent and
proactive can recognize the wrongdoer, before falling prey to them. Even if
sextortion has taken place, the same can be stopped.
Following are some of the tips to avoid sextortion:
Spotting sextortion before it starts
Not to follow any text having a sexually suggestive theme, or share any
intimidate image or video with an unknown user. Also, not to perform any
sexually colored act before the camera that might get recorded by them. avoid
sending such said content to anyone online. Make social accounts either private
or put a strong password to the accounts. Not to shift the conversation from one
platform to another on the demand of the unknown user. Also, be alert of the
strangers who quickly try to shift text conversation to video chat.
If you are a victim of sextortion
- Tell about the situation to family or others whom you trust. Some people
feel so embarrassed and shameful to describe the matter to the family, but
sharing such an incident with the family will provide an emotional support.
- Not to comply with the demands of offenders. Many victims in fear of the
public release of their sexual content, make payments one after one and
perform such acts as are demanded. This leads to perpetual extortion which
might get stopped after the demands are fulfilled, but this will be a sword
hanging over the victimís head, as they are more likely to come back with
further demands. Also, there is no guarantee that offenders will not still
post the recordings.
- Report sextortion, lodge your complaint online to the concerned
website. The most important file an FIR.
Are present laws sufficient to deal with sextortion?
In India, there is no explicit law that expressly covers the crime of
sextortion, although numerous laws recognize one or the other aspects of
sextortion. Here is a need to check whether present laws are enough to combat
- The laws governing sexual harassment of women at workplace act 2013,
aims to protect women at the workplace, and the protection is limited only
to female workers, while sextortion is not against a gender specific.
- Section 354 of IPC, is a protection against sexual assault, and criminal
force used to outrage the modesty of a woman, and does not cover the distinct
dynamics of this crime.
- Section 376, is a law punishing rape, done in different capacities, one
of which is rape due to the abuse of authority.
- Section 384 of IPC, a law against extortion, however, does not cover the
sexual element involved with it.
- The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. It is a
gender-natural legislation, dealing with child sexual abuse. It widely
addresses the cases of sexual assault but is limited to children.
- IT Act, 2000 stipulates certain sexual offenses dealing with
cyber-crime, though it also does not cover the changing aspects of cyber
After the analysis of present laws, the lacuna of the legal framework is
evident. These all laws and provisions cover sexual abuse but fall short to deal
with the acts pertaining to sextortion directly.
What does government need to do?
- Propose a new statute to cover these crimes or make an amendment to the
Since no stature recognizes sextortion expressly, such cases are dealt with
under various other laws, but the unique dynamics of this crime makes the
present law inadequate and unsuccessful. Even after a successful prosecution,
the punishment conferred is relatively much lesser than the wrong committed.
This does not deter the crime rate. And the perpetrator remains motivated to
proceed with the delinquency.
What all need is specific legislation on the matter to cover the widened area of
sextortion or, at the very least an amendment in the present law adding
sextortion, as this serious issue cannot be solved.
- Public Awareness
Awareness will play a significant role in decreasing the crime rate, and
connecting people to fight against sextortion together, which will work as a
ripple effect of the change. Knowing the nature and pattern of the crime would
work as an alarm, whenever social media users encounter such behavior.
awareness could be spread through advertisements, seminars, T.V shows, etc. They
play an influential role and help shape the views of individuals. This can
surely be a helpful tool to change the attitude of society towards the victims,
by shading light on the issue and its technicalities
Launching sensitization program
The nature of crime is such that tends to attach a stigma to the victims, for
sharing such compromising images and sexual content with the perpetrators or
setting an environment of opportunity for them to record the same.
Fact that the
victims are generally blamed for participating in such an act prevents victims
from lodging complaints or revealing the incidents of threat to anybody. If
someone is affected by sextortion he must not be left alone, the reason being
this is not the victimís fault. The incidents of victim-blaming are one of the
reasons for not lodging complaints. This attitude can negatively impact
Encouraging social media sites to develop effective complaint mechanisms
Government must take certain steps to encourage the companies to develop sites,
adopt practices and make policies that prohibit sexual exploitation in any form,
so these platforms could not be used by the offenders for the commission of the
Proactive intervention by these sites on receiving the complaint by potential
victims, would to some extent reduce the number of cases. First, the complaint
system must deal with the complaints quickly and efficiently, so the significant
portion of people using social media can get a fruitful result.
Sextortion is becoming a common phenomenon in India. Despite it being a newly
emerging crime, the number of cases is increasing dramatically, which is a
serious threat hovering over the nation targeting youth. There is a need for a
deep examination and study of the crime so, the legislature could come up with a
Specific law covering all the aspects and forms of sextortion, and giving
stringent punishment to whoever commits it. It is important to protect
individuals from being victimized.