SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN VR- A QUESTION OF VIRTUAL DEFENCE?


Envision you are in a computer-generated simulation in a sword-based or an arrow based weaponry game shooting zombies in a snow-covered fortress. Your avatar is a basic bodiless skimming protective cap with two hands gripping a sword. While you capably cut down a flood of the undead, another player recognizes you as female by your voice and before you know it, he is making wrong and overt gestures in the game. You shout "STOP" and attempt to flee however that player keeps on pursuing you, making pinching and squeezing movements around your chest, attacking your own space. You quit the game and attempt to persuade yourself that it wasn't real, yet you track down that the flood of feelings you encountered are all around. This was a genuine record of Jordan Belamire who was essentially grabbed in a VR game called QuiVR.


The miserable truth is that lewd behaviour, assault and sexual harassment are common occurrences in our society be it anywhere in the country. With the headway of the web and online media, these violations gained another measurement and got predominant in the digital world too, through cyberstalking, voyeurism and so forth. At present we can separate among on the web and genuine provocation. Be that as it may, what happens when the hole between the virtual and genuine world is insignificant. Virtual reality has made this conceivable to a degree. This innovation is right now, restricted to sound and viewable signs yet when haptic stuff is utilized sooner rather than later, the computer-generated simulation will join the feeling of touch too. The resultant hyper-reasonable virtual spaces have given violations to the third dimension.


Sexual harassment has been a component of the web and gaming networks from the earliest days of the internet. As of recently, the maltreatment and abuse have been generally restricted to verbal and visual messages, however as computer-generated reality innovation such as VR turns out to be more vivid, the line between our physical bodies and our digital-based bodies commonly known as Avatars starts to obscure. Is it accurate to say that we are destined to construct virtual universes that are as hostile to females as the real ones making it feel as real as a physical assault?


Further, the question arises that how Real is VR-is the same as the one experienced in a real environment? Well yes, studies have proven that the psychological response experienced by the body in a VR environment is the same as the one experienced in a real environment, Individuals do feel a strong emotion as they do in real-life experiences and the same can cause a psychological impact on the individual experiencing such harassment or wrongful behaviour.


It was over Over twenty years ago, Julian Dibbell chronicled the genuine fallout of emotions of "harassment" that occurred in a multi-user text-based system, known as LambdaMOO. The "assault" included one client seizing the framework to compose sentences portraying sexual demonstrations including other clients avatars. “No physical human bodies touched,” but still to the person experiencing it, the violation was real.


Sexual harassment or assault is a deliberate act that places the other individual in sensible trepidation of immediate harm being caused due to physical contact. In a virtual climate, it tends to contend that an attacker can't happen as there is earlier information that actual contact that can cause hurt is unimaginable and not possible. Section 354 of the IPC, attack or criminal power to a female with the purpose to shock her unobtrusiveness, requires the event of either "attack" or real "criminal power". The current meanings of both can't be used to arraign an offence carried out in VR. But then again under Section 354A of the IPC under sub-section (iii) and (iv) showing pornography against the desire of a lady or offering explicitly hued comments, can be extended to incorporate such demonstrations done in a virtual climate. Where another player sends explicitly unseemly media by means of the correspondence arrangement of the game, S67A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 can act as the hero. This section talks about penalising an individual for sharing or transmitting obscene material that is lascivious in nature that is 'sex-related having a tendency of 'exciting lustful thoughts would fall under the ambit of obscene.


But are these laws enough? Can the issue of Sexual harassment be dealt with just these laws? Well in my opinion NO, the current circumstance presents a need for more such laws to represents a virtual climate that causes a serious level of trauma. The ability of VR users to harm one another causing sexual harassment raises all sorts of complex ethical and legal questions. The current lawful system gives restricted insurance and protection from such explicitly unseemly direct in the virtual world. It's not just the laws that need to be worked upon it's the virtual reality stages that need to create techniques to assist players with ensuring protection towards themselves and a strong detailing component to authorize the set of accepted rules. VR stages need to ensure protection to ensure against such harassment and lucid conduct. Simultaneously, we need to start converting into the issue of altering existing laws to rebuff such conduct considering the advancement in innovation. Early acknowledgement of this issue can permit us to set up structures before VR acquires mass openness and pertinence.


Sexual harassment taking place virtually is an emerging phenomenon and is likely to become more prevalent in the future as we continue to live more of our lives in the new digitalized virtual environments. It is quite the need of the hour that we start to think and work our way forward about the seriousness of this type of assault and the trauma it leave-behind. Its time for the criminal law system to enter the realm of virtual reality now.


Author:


Chetna Alagh

(2nd year Law Student at UPES, Dehradun.)

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