New threat to women: Sexual assault through organized crime via Social Media

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A new form of threat to women has surfaced and its targets unsuspecting women through social media. The women are befriended, lured and coerced into giving-in to a group’s nefarious demands.

The women are first sent messages on social media, and later invited for dinners and long drives. Once gaining the girl’s confidence, she would be invited to a secluded place and sexually assaulted which was also video-graphed. Later, the victims were blackmailed for money or for physical submission; the said group has sexually assaulted as many as 60 women for over seven years.

It was the brave effort of one girl who took the courage to seek police help leading to the exposure of the racket.

According to the Tamil Nadu Police, four accused – Thirunavukkarasu, Sabarirajan, Vasanthakumar, Satish – were arrested by Coimbatore (Rural) Police on March 12, 2019 in connection with the crime. The Police official also informed that the mobile phones confiscated from the four persons arrested in connection with the Pollachi sexual assault case, a town in Coimbatore district, is about 535 km from Chennai. They have been sent for analysis in an effort to gather more details.

The Coimbatore (Rural) Police believes that the network of criminals will be about 15 members and are currently probing it.

Sadly, in the state of Tamil Nadu, the incident has turned into political issue as the Code of Conduct for the election to the 17th Lok Sabha session is imposed. The opposition parties claimed that the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) was trying to shield its members alleged to have been involved in the crime. The party on March 11, expelled Youth Worker A. Nagaraj for assaulting a victim’s brother.

Meanwhile, V. Jayaraman, Deputy Speaker of the Tamil Nadu Assembly, told the media that opposition parties were trying to spread rumours to tarnish his name by linking his family members to the alleged crime. While Thirunavukkarasu, when he was in hiding, released a video saying politicians were also involved and wanted the case to be transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The police claimed that in their crack down on the gang on March 10, they seized a video that showed a group of men molesting a young woman, who was pleading to let her go.

While rest of the nation talks about human trafficking and flash trade and The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) 2012, the Pollachi sex racket ran organized crime without fear, taking advantages of the victims’ preference to remain silence due to fear of taboo.

Meanwhile, the Madras High Court on March 12, 2019, criticised the national media and comparing the coverage to the 2016 Nirbhaya gangrape case, observed that no importance was being given to the Pollachi sexual abuse cases.

The horrifying Pollachi sexual assault case just blew open the lid whereby it not only exposed such organized crime using social media but also raises questions on the Cyber Crime Department, who did not do enough in time to amend much rigorous Law to nab and punish such offenders.

Every political parties and successive central and state governments keep assuring the safety and security of the Women folks in India. It will be no different for the election to the 17th Lok Sabha. But such heinous crimes keep cropping up.

It is time all the Whistle-blowers should push the issue of security and safety for all women and girl child in the nation in the upcoming General Lok Sabha election as the main agenda. The young and curious minds also need to be sensitised on precautions to be taken while using social media so that they will not fall prey to such predators.