February 11, 2022
DHAKA – We are quite concerned at the increasing incidents of cybercrimes against women and children in Bangladesh. According to Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), 70 percent of the victims of cybercrimes are women. The rights organisation has found this after analysing data from a recent police survey. In a separate survey, the ministry of posts, telecommunications and information technology has found that 49 percent of schoolchildren are becoming victims of cyberbullying. The real situation can be worse, as many victims or their families do not report these crimes to the police, fearing social stigma or further victimisation.
Cybercrimes have increased particularly during this pandemic which led to a rise in the number of internet users. From January 2020 to August 2021, the number of internet users has increased by 26.21 million in the country, according to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission. A large portion of them are teenagers who are using internet mainly for academic purposes, as schools and colleges have resorted to online classes to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Unfortunately, most teenagers and young adults have no awareness of the danger internet poses. A survey conducted by the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh last year found that teenage girls are less aware than boys of the risks of cyberbullying, stalking, harassment, sexual abuse and production or consumption of illegal materials. Although police introduced a helpline to provide support to the victims in 2020, few people used that to report crimes. And those who did and sought help, less than half of them got any legal advice and assistance, ASK found.
Amidst such a grim situation, what needs to be done on a priority basis is raise awareness among young users about the harmful aspects of the internet. ASK has also identified some reasons—such as lack of importance given to children’s mental health, domestic violence, absence of sexual and reproductive health and cyber security education—behind the increase in cybercrimes. Addressing these issues is crucial, and parents and educational institutions have a key role to play here.
Of course, a major part of the responsibility to stop such crimes falls on our police force, especially the cybercrime fighting unit. Since police have a specific unit to work on the issue, they must have the willingness and required manpower and tools to reach out to all the victims who report to them and provide them prompt and necessary support. Also, cases filed in connection with cybercrimes must be disposed of quickly, which will act as a deterrent to prospective criminals.