Is Revenge Porn Too Hot For Lawmakers?
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.