Is Re­venge Porn Too Hot For Law­mak­ers?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By

IToni Ni­cholas t was in 2006 that pho­to­graphs of cop­u­lat­ing Saint Lu­cian women and men (the men’s faces al­ways out of cam­era range) went vi­ral. We were not yet hooked on Face­book. BBM, MSN Mes­sen­ger and Hot­mail were still quite popular and the means via which the naughty ac­tion was shared.

Re­mem­ber “Looshan Girls Gone Wild?” The DVDs were boot­legged all over town. Some of the par­tic­i­pat­ing ladies, plagued by shame and taunted be­yond tol­er­ance, skeeda­dled town in favour of greener pas­tures. Oth­ers tried to get over their ex­po­sure. The men who leaked the for­bid­den fruit, and oth­ers who scored heav­ily off the scenes, moved on to more sala­cious pas­times.

Since then, Face­book has taken over the world, in­clud­ing Chris­tian Saint Lu­cia. Our phones now come with cam­eras; we have so­cial me­dia. As for DVDs, well, they’ve gone the way of vinyl, al­most. One thing re­mains con­stant, how­ever: our in­sa­tiable ap­petite for sex in all its forms, in­clud­ing voyeurism and kicks at some­one else’s ex­pense. The num­ber of lo­cal sex videos that have been “leaked,” usu­ally by scorned lovers, is noth­ing short of alarm­ing.

Re­mem­ber the case in 2009 in­volv­ing a Courts em­ployee whose job was on the line af­ter a num­ber of ex­plicit pho­to­graphs, ap­par­ently taken in a public place, was the talk of the town? The holier-thant­hous in sheep sheaths rained hell­fire over her on the air­waves and else­where. I wit­nessed the vic­tim be­ing in­ter­viewed and talk­ing about sui­cide.

At the end of the day, sex videos re­leased with­out con­sent not only hurt the vic­tims but also their loved ones. As if al­ready women had not been bat­tered enough, sex has for them be­come the equal of walk­ing through a mine­field. As I write, a mother is try­ing to cope with her 15-year old daugh­ter who has con­tem­plated sui­cide count­less times. By her ac­count she was bul­lied into hav­ing sex with a young man who had threat­ened to re­lease pic­tures of her with­out her clothes. She was later raped by an­other boy who de­manded his “piece in the anus” or else. The mat­ter is now be­fore the courts. (More on that at a later date.)

Cy­ber-bul­ly­ing and so­called “re­venge porn” are now com­mon­place here and the au­thor­i­ties have been caught with their pants down, with no idea how to re­act. It seems our law­mak­ers never an­tic­i­pated the ar­rival of the lat­est epi­demic. Sadly there is no public de­mand for re­lated laws; we still blame the vic­tims of rape, to the ex­tent that the vast ma­jor­ity of in­ci­dents go un­re­ported.

Just this month the West Indies and Trinidad and Tobago bats­man Lendyl Sim­mons was sued for post­ing in­ti­mate pho­to­graphs of a woman on so­cial net­work. The woman is claim­ing that the crick­eter breached the con­fi­den­tial­ity of their re­la­tion­ship when he broad­cast the images with­out her per­mis­sion. The prece­den­tial breach of con­fi­dence law­suit came up for hear­ing in Port of Spain ear­lier this month. The mat­ter is ex­pected to be tried on …………………………………………

Reg­is­trar of the High Court March 23.

The Ja­maica Ob­server re­ported this week that a woman who re­port­edly ac­quired a video of her lover and an­other woman hav­ing sex and used it to black­mail the woman is now be­fore the court, charged with extortion. The de­fen­dant is al­leged to have de­manded $8,000 from the other woman or else she would re­lease the em­bar­rass­ing video. The ac­cused has pleaded not guilty and the mat­ter was resched­uled for April 14.

In May 2008 a “Cy­ber­crime Leg­is­la­tion Draft­ing Work­shop” for coun­tries of the Caribbean, or­ga­nized by the US Depart­ment of Jus­tice and the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Amer­i­can States was held in Trinidad and Tobago. Since then only Gre­nada has acted in the in­ter­est of abused women. In 2013 the Gre­nada Par­lia­ment en­acted laws in re­la­tion to of­fen­sive on­line con­tent. Con­victed par­ties face pri­son sen­tences of up to 12 months.

I con­tacted sev­eral lo­cal lawyers to de­ter­mine whether Saint Lu­cia had en­acted any such laws - they promised to check and call me back. The po­lice press re­la­tions of­fi­cer Zachary Hip­polyte was more forth­com­ing. “There is what is called the “Com­puter Mis­use Act” and un­der the sec­tion “ma­li­cious com­mu­ni­ca­tions” it states that a per­son shall not use a com­puter to send a mes­sage, let­ter, elec­tronic com­mu­ni­ca­tion or ar­ti­cle of any de­scrip­tion that is in­de­cent or ob­scene; con­sti­tutes a threat; or is men­ac­ing in char­ac­ter,with the in­ten­tion to cause or be­ing reck­less as to whether he or she causes an­noy­ance, in­con­ve­nience, dis­tress or anx­i­ety to the re­cip­i­ent or to any other per­son to whom he or she in­tends it or its con­tents to be com­mu­ni­cated,” he quoted from the Act. De­scribed as “an of­fense” the Act makes the guilty party li­able on sum­mary con­vic­tion to a fine not ex­ceed­ing ten thou­sand dol­lars or to im­pris­on­ment for a term not ex­ceed­ing three months or both.

How­ever, one of my “legal minds” right­fully con­tends that four years later and the law is al­ready with the ad­vent of “smart phones” and other de­vices that may not be cat­e­go­rized as “com­put­ers.” “Most def­i­nitely the act needs to be re­vised,” the lawyer states.

Mean­while cy­ber-bul­ly­ing and re­venge porn are the rage in Saint Lu­cia with law-mak­ers show­ing not the least in­ter­est for women caught with­out their un­der­wear. It’s al­most as if our par­lia­men­tar­i­ans were afraid even to broach the sub­ject.

In the United States a num­ber of ju­ris­dic­tions are putting in place laws to crim­i­nal­ize the ma­li­cious post­ing of sex­u­ally ex­plicit pic­tures and videos with­out the con­sent of the pic­tured party. The only reser­va­tion is that such laws could cre­ate du­ties for third par­ties that con­tra­vene Sec­tion 230 of the fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions De­cency Act which grants im­mu­nity to third-party pub­lish­ers from torts like defama­tion. It has been ar­gued that the ar­chi­tec­ture of the in­ter­net de­pends on ced­ing the right to con­trol in­for­ma­tion af­ter it leaves one’s im­me­di­ate con­trol.

And so what do we do as we wait for the next lo­cally pro­duced sex tape to pop up on our Face­book page? Do we press delete, ig­nore or share? What if the star turns out to be your wife, hus­band, girl­friend, boyfriend, daugh­ter, son, sis­ter, brother, fa­ther or mother? Where do you turn?

How many young Saint Lu­cians have taken their lives be­cause of cy­ber-bul­ly­ing or re­venge porn? We may never know, quick as we are to judge and quickly ar­rive at con­ve­nient con­clu­sions. Point­less seek­ing an­swers from the Min­is­ter of Jus­tice Phillip LaCor­binere. He is too busy stand­ing his ground on not de­crim­i­nal­iz­ing mar­i­juana and pros­ti­tu­tion.

And what about Emma Hip­polyte who promised to rid the is­land of the scourge of video lot­tery ter­mi­nals? And re­mem­ber our saintly Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter who re­fused to see a mother whose daugh­ter was a vic­tim of bul­ly­ing at school? As if ad­her­ing to gov­ern­ment pol­icy, the Health Min­is­ter is now also re­fus­ing to meet with the mother of a 15-year-old ear­lier men­tioned.

The na­tion waits with bated breath as elec­tion-time ap­proaches. Which of the con­tend­ing par­ties will be the first to make plat­form is­sues of cy­ber-bul­ly­ing and re­venge porn and rape? Will vot­ers re­ject of­fers of more cam­paign chicken, rum and hole-fill­ing five-dollar meals and de­mand laws rel­e­vant to in­ter­net crime that are en­force­able? We soon shall see!

While we wait for up­dated laws to deal with Cy­ber-bul­ly­ing and “Re­venge Porn” we need to open up the dis­cus­sion by talk­ing to our boys and men and let­ting them know that it is not OK to abuse the trust of some­one they are in­ti­mate with. They need to be held accountable and we need to stop vic­tim-blam­ing and

em­pathize with our women and ad­vise them on mak­ing bet­ter choices.

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