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Warnings to women miss the point

Warnings to women miss the point

If a woman puts a picture online and a man later tries to use it to blackmail or defame her, she is a victim, and we should treat her as such.

January 27, 2011 4:42 by

A senior UAE police officer has warned women in the UAE not to upload pictures of themselves online in case they are blackmailed or defamed.

According to Dubai Police records, 73 such cases were registered in 2010, 17 percent more than in 2009, when they investigated 62 cases. Captain Rashid Lootah, head of the Electronic Evidence unit at the Criminal Evidence and Criminology department, said: “The most common cases involve young men who copy pictures of girls from their Facebook accounts and then use them to blackmail the girls for money.”

“I call on girls not to save their pictures online: not in their email inboxes or on social networking websites,” he said. “This will prevent them falling victim to weak souls who are out to get them in trouble. I also call on them not to open their email accounts or social networking profiles in public places, such as internet cafes.”

Kipp is all for being sensible online, but we think the point is being missed here. It is not the women who are breaking the law, or the women who are at fault, it is the blackmailers and “weak souls.” They are criminals, and they are the ones who should be being warned. Putting pictures onto a private email or social networking account is not an illegal act.

Warning the women (who are, in fact, the victims) runs the risk of making them feel like the offenders, or will at least make them think they will be treated as such if they come forward. This makes it all the more likely that they won’t come forward to report such crimes, and makes them even more vulnerable to the blackmailers.

What the police should be saying is this: Any man found stealing images of a woman from the internet and attempting to corrupt their name or shame them or blackmail them in any way, shape or form will face immediate and severe punishment. He should be warned that he will be the one shamed and exposed.

By all means urge caution from women – a bit of common sense doesn’t hurt. But responsibility needs to be put firmly in its place, or we run the risk of making things worse.

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