Thursday, October 28, 2021

Revenge porn ÔÇô hell hath no fury than a scorned lover

“…all I remember was my phone ringing off the hook ÔÇômy friends all desperately trying to reach me and alert me that my naked pictures were all over social media for the world to see,” recalls Kopano Modisakwane a fourth year student at Ba Isago University who was a victim of revenge porn in 2010 at the hands of a scorned lover. Kopano is one in a growing number of Batswana millenials who has suffer the humiliation of having their intimate photos publicised in order to shame or emotionally harm them.

Unfortunately Botswana’s lady justice is almost blind – literally ÔÇô to nude pictures of Batswana victims posted online by scorned lovers. Thabiso Gulubane of Maphakwane & Associates says although they rarely have cases of revenge porn there are laws that help protect against it, nothing concrete though. “Section 178 (1) makes it an offence to deal and distribute obscene publications or material, therefore any person distributing what is essentially pornographic material can be charged under this section if they distribute the material publicly, online or otherwise. However, the punishments provided are very light and would in most cases not deter the perpetrators. If found guilty the perpetrators are liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding  two years or to a fine not exceeding P200.00.”

Gulubane says the police don’t really take cases of revenge porn seriously “Police believe that you were consenting to the material used against you, be it footage or inappropriate pictures, therefore don’t really take the case seriously.” He says that it should be noted that this section is very outdated and there is need for it to either be reviewed or for new legislation to be enacted which would properly protect victims of revenge porn, which is gradually happening in more developed countries.”

It often starts out innocently, with sending “for your eyes only” sexually inappropriate pictures or “nudes” to a loved one. Then comes the break up and suddenly your x-rated shots start popping up on social media. Welcome to the digital world of defamation and involuntary nudity. Revenge porn refers to the growing trend where jilted lovers exact revenge by posting sexually explicit pictures of their ex’s online.

In most cases, these pictures or footage are obtained during the couple’s happy lovey-dovey times before the break up. These pictures are then distributed by scorned lovers and shared by groups of friends through social media platforms.

These pornographic souvenirs from relationships gone sour end up in cyberspace at the click of a mouse. The increased use of smart phones with cameras, good quality audio and the growth of social media makes it easier to film and distribute such material.

Speaking to Sunday Standard’s Lifestyle, Kopano says revenge porn is very real. She should know better because she has experienced it first-hand. “I was in a relationship with a guy I loved for a little over three years and I had shared a few intimate pictures of myself with him. As time went by we grew apart and eventually broke up. I guess he didn’t handle the break up very well because he threatened to post my nudes for everyone to see. I didn’t believe him because I trusted him even after we broke up.

So I ignored it. Initially he didn’t post the pictures on social media; he passed them amongst his friends. From then on it was a chain-reaction; one sent it to the other and the other to the next until they ended up on social media. I had to delete my Facebook account.” Kopano says she didn’t hand over the case to the police. ‘I didn’t try to find out if there are laws that provide protection against revenge porn. I did know however that it is not against the law to post people’s photos or personal information so knowing that I just relented seeing as my ex eventually apologised. I just wanted the nightmare to be over.”

Botswana millenials are the most vulnerable to revenge porn, mainly because they are easily taken up with international trends and learn how to deal with rejection from the internet.

Revenge porn is done with the aim to hurt and embarrass the defamed partner. This is because most estranged partners feel rejected and their ego taking a huge knock.

In Botswana revenge porn isn’t a crime punishable by law, many people may assume that laws regarding invasion of privacy, violation of right of publicity or defamation would provide protection against revenge porn. In the US, 26 states have currently criminalized revenge porn and other states are invasion of privacy and harassment laws. Professor Mary Ann Franks of University Of Miami’s School Of Law has proposed a federal law against revenge porn. According to Franks, the impact of a federal law for victims would be immediate, she would like to see a similar take-down notice regime that exists in copyright law, which requires a site to remove content that others assert belongs to them. If a woman finds out an objectionable photo of herself – Franks calls it “non-consensual material” — she could notify the site and it would be required to remove it.

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