“Do you want to earn Rs. 20,000 – Rs. 50,000 in a day? For more details call us on XXXXX XXXXX” says the ad on the site. Sounds like an advertisement of a placement company. Doesn’t it? A further look into the site reveals – “I offer the ultimate girl friend experience escort service to males, females and shemales. We can lose all our inhibitions and explore our fantasies together (sic),” says a banner on the website of an escort service operating in India. While another says “My vital stats are 40D-30-39. I can give u the perfect girl friend experience of a lifetime, because I am hot and h**** (sic)”.
The Internet is an enormous marketplace to sell products and services including the services of women. We often blame social networking sites as a source for delinquencies. However, it is the easy and unrestricted access to the Internet that has exposed minds to enormous unsolicited content.
When the words “escort services” are typed in a search engine, or on the very popular Orkut for that matter, the results obtained are deplorable with sexually explicit pictures and brazen text. These sites contain contact numbers and e-mail addresses of the agents or coordinators which is easily available with a click of the mouse. The sites also invite applications from “young and sexy women” to apply for positions as escorts.
Orkut has been in the limelight after being linked to the murders of TCS employee Koushambi Layek by Manish Thakur and the latest Adnan Patrawala case. The site is not new to cases of cloning of profiles and misusing pictures and searching for escort services on Orkut, well, isn’t exactly rocket science.
While authorities are busy playing net nanny, Orkut remains easily accessible to a large section of society dominated by youngsters.
Following are the transcripts of a telephone call made to a Mr. Verma whose number was procured form one such site.
Anjali: Hello Mr. Verma I would like to book an escort for my boss
Verma: Your boss???? (laughs)
Anjali: Can you supply a girl aged around 18-25 at J. W. Marriot?
Verma: Yes I can. Shall I e-mail you some pictures? Ask your boss to select.
Anjali: What is the cost of a girl?
Verma: Rs. 25,000 for one session that it two hours. Room rent and gifts are separate. Virgin girl Rs. 40,000 and firangs Rs. 50,000
Anjali: Is there any discount?
Verma: This is not a khirana shop to ask for discount. When shall I confirm the booking?
Anjali: How can I make the payment?
Verma: Cash or blank cheque. I will write the name.
Anjali: Ok thank you. I will speak to my boss and call back later.
On calling up the number on the website, the agent divulged all possible information without any qualms or actually verifying who was on the other side of that call. Section 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 says that whoever publishes or transmits in the electronic form, any material which is lewd and lustful or appeals to that interest shall be liable to punishment. The punishment on first conviction is imprisonment which may extend to five years and fine which may extend to one lakh rupees. In the event of a second or subsequent conviction imprisonment may extend to ten years and fine may extend to two lakh rupees.
The Information Technology Act, 2000 was enacted to provide legal recognition of electronic communication in India. On questioning an official from the Cyber Crime Investigation Cell in Mumbai, the official (on the condition of anonymity) said, “We are aware of the existence of escort services. Adult prostitution is not illegal in India. Child prostitution and those who live off the income of prostitutes is illegal. We are arresting such people frequently. Even after the arrests, their aides continue to operate in full swing.”
In spite of the “arrests” made by the Cyber Crime Investigation Cell, the persons running these escort services are unperturbed by the laws and the enforcers of the law.
The official further said, “The internet is an international source. This business has a large network. These websites are hosted abroad and we do not have much control over such sites.” But Section 75 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 says that this Act applies to any offense or contravention committed outside India by any person if the act or conduct constituting is located in India.
To this the official added, “We have been blocking escort services websites but after some time, the agents unblock them or they operate under another domain name. We can put an end to this nonsense only with the co-operation of the people.”
Though the process of investigation was not divulged the official maintained that certain things could to be to prevent children from “bumping into these sites.”
- Set up a password to prevent children from accessing the internet without adult supervision
- Activate a web locking system in the computer that blocks access to these sites
- Activate the adult content filter option especially in Peer2Peer file sharing software
- Display warnings mentioning “adult content” where blocking is impossible
- Check the internet history regularly to monitor the content viewed.
Some cybercafés in India have blocked such sites but most of them thrive by serving customers who need a daily dose of pornography. Parents are aware of the kind of content out on the Internet. “I know my children are vulnerable to viewing such content. Therefore, the computer is in my bedroom under lock and key. I have also set a password for the computer and my children can use the computer only under my supervision,” says Richa Mehta, mother of three school children.
“I trust my children though they are smarter than me when it comes to the computer and internet. I don’t know about the existence of blocking softwares,” says another parent Lily Fernandes.