We hold power to account - sparking criminal investigations and exposing abuses. Help us do more. This article is based on discussions around cyber exploitation with students, parents and teachers in rural and urban Sri Lanka, grappling with the motivations for sharing naked pictures and videos. The list of search results found on Google.
What makes a young girl stand naked in front of her mirror, point her smartphone at it, and take a picture? What makes a young man, who receives this picture, share it with his friends on WhatsApp, perhaps even sell it to a website that specializes in girlfriend pornography?
Since May , when a group of 70 girls from different schools in Colombo approached us at the Grassrooted Trust about being blackmailed because of naked pictures and videos they had shared with their boyfriends, our engagement with cyber exploitation and violence has been characterized by three surprises. Our first surprise was that all the young people we spoke to, regardless of where they lived or their background, knew about the naked pictures and videos.
Wherever there is a smartphone with a camera and an internet connection, it happens. We were also schooled on the popular social media and messaging applications that were most suited for sharing these pictures and videos. We were taught how to bypass notifications on Snapchat , put in place to let the sender know a screenshot was taken of her ten-second snap that was supposed to disappear forever.
Open it. Take your screenshots. Close it. Turn on data. Open it and let it last for ten seconds and disappear. We listened. Young people explained that the sharing of nudes had become a symbol of trust and fidelity. It had replaced the gold plated locket, Hallmark card, and fading red rose. There was little evidence of reciprocation. This phlegmatic assessment equates the nude with sex. When the young women spoke of nudes there was a sense of mutuality.
Pictures and videos were initially shared consensually. Peer pressure did have its requisite role to play — others had done it. Yet, it was love and trust that appeared to make them press send. A social contract. They believed their boyfriends would never betray them. Being shamed for sharing the nude was unthinkable. Our next surprise was how methodical and violent the exploitation had become.
The group of 70, for example, were being blackmailed via a false account on Instagram Direct with the simple calculated threat — I have your naked picture. Send me the naked picture of another girl. Or see what I do with yours. The unthinkable had come to pass. Shame in high definition. They were far more sexually explicit, purposely used to capture the imagination of the young men, and perhaps women, that peruse the database.
Sample lists of this database are sent out to young men in relationships with requests for naked pictures of their girlfriends, with the promise of FREE access to the entire database as a valued contributor. Other groups have set up Dropbox links with bulk folders of up to pictures.
These were circulated primarily via WhatsApp groups - chess, rowing, choir, rugby, class, tuition, friends, inner circle etc. Photographs intended exclusively for their boyfriends, were now public masturbation material. Google Sri Lanka naked girls or Sri Lanka porn for evidence. Popular porn site xhamster. Complete with a little flag icon. All these are filmed on a smartphone or webcam. In a struggling economy, a few dollars help. Not all parents can afford to give their kids pocket money.
Young people need to be industrious. Our third surprise is that we have still not been able to respond effectively. The shame and fear of coming forward is exacerbated when there is no clear response mechanism in place to support victims of cyber exploitation. If the victim happens to be Under 18, then the National Child Protection Authority may offer support.
This would necessarily involve her parents. Not an easy discussion. A fearful and shameful silence is often the choice. The proper channels also include writing a letter to the director of the CID and requesting a meeting. Meanwhile the picture or video link is travelling from WhatsApp group to WhatsApp group.
Sri Lanka CERT can block the site, but once uploaded onto one porn site, those pictures and videos are soon appropriated by other porn sites. Where is our prevention in schools and universities? Why is this not a priority for a government that speaks so glibly about technology? What of updating our cyber laws? We know of at least three separate drafts in the works since , perhaps all destined to go to wherever drafts go to die.
Repeatedly citing the Budapest Convention is not going to help the young year-old who is being threatened, or the year-old who is being forced to have sex i. We need a safe space for victims. The current response to cyber violence of the kind discussed here is knee-jerk Victorian moralizing and calls to ban all things Facebook.
Or taking back phones given to daughters. What is necessary is to have open lines of communication with young women and men. This is our greatest challenge. Popular baila folk music is replete with sexist, misogynist, and sexually violent references. How then do we counsel our young men against objectifying women and girls online? Perhaps, now, more than ever, we must reject patriarchal values that make us appear Neolithic. Fathers have justified their sons sharing naked pictures. Mothers have attacked mothers, while sharing these links and pictures on WhatsApp, with friends and family, feigning shock and horror.
This is where we are as a people. Together, we need to identify solutions. We need to be sensible. We hope those tablets will contain information on maintaining healthy relationships both online and off. Cyber exploitation must be understood within the framework of gender-based and intimate partner violence.
Any culture that struggles with notions of shameful nakedness allows for this violence. Ultimately, gender equity must be our focus. Human dignity through education must be our collective goal, and human dignity has no place for shame. Government agencies have promised investigations and lawmakers across four continents have called for action. If you have any queries about republishing please contact us. Please check individual images for licensing details.
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