Surge In Hidden Camera Incidents In Pakistan's Girls' Hostels Raises Alarm

(MENAFN- Khaama Press) Lahore, Pakistan - Recent incidents involving hidden cameras in girls' hostels have sparked significant concern across Pakistan. The Lahore Police have registered a case against the owners and staff of a private girls' hostel in Johar Town after discovering hidden cameras in the washrooms. These cameras were reportedly used to record videos of the residents, causing serious distress among the hostel's occupants and their families. According to Dawn News, the incident came to light when a resident's uncle filed a complaint. The police investigation revealed that the cameras were installed to make indecent recordings of the female residents. The accused individuals, including hostel owners and several staff members, fled the scene following the discovery. The police have since evacuated the hostel and are continuing their investigation​.

This is not an isolated case. Instances of hidden camera surveillance targeting women in private spaces such as hostels, shelters, and salons have been reported from various parts of the country. According to Pakistan Today, advocacy groups like the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) have expressed grave concerns over these violations of privacy and dignity. The DRF has highlighted the unregulated use of CCTV and hidden cameras, calling for urgent reforms to protect women's rights in private spaces​.

The National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) of Pakistan has also condemned these actions, describing them as severe invasions of privacy and blatant violations of fundamental human rights. The NCHR has called for immediate and stringent actions to dismantle unauthorized surveillance systems and hold those responsible accountable​.

In light of these incidents, there is a growing demand for the Pakistani government to review and enact comprehensive data protection laws to safeguard privacy and address the misuse of surveillance technology. According to a recent editorial in Dawn, there is an urgent need for the proposed data protection bill to be inclusive of women's rights and digital rights groups' recommendations​.

Meanwhile, there have been other alarming cases highlighting the issue of hidden surveillance. For example, ARY News reported in May that a Karachi man was arrested for allegedly creating lewd videos of his wife and distributing them on dark websites. The man was also accused of installing a spy camera in their bathroom to film his wife, further demonstrating the pervasive nature of this problem​.

Additionally, high-profile cases have involved judges as victims of surveillance. In March, six Islamabad High Court judges wrote an open letter accusing the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of installing spy cameras in a judge's residence. This incident underscores the extensive reach of unauthorized surveillance in Pakistan and its potential to affect various segments of society​.

The Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) has emphasized that women in Pakistan are already subject to significant gender-based violence, harassment, and social surveillance. The invasion of privacy through hidden cameras in places like women's shelters, hostels, universities, and salons exacerbates these issues. DRF's Cyber Harassment Helpline received 16,849 complaints, with 58.5% from women, highlighting the trend of non-consensual filming and misuse of intimate images for blackmail and intimidation​.

The Pakistani government's National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) issued a statement on June 7, condemning the hidden camera incidents as severe invasions of privacy and fundamental human rights violations. The NCHR has called for immediate dismantling of unauthorized surveillance systems and accountability for those responsible. These unlawful installations not only infringe on individual privacy but also erode trust in institutions designed to protect and serve the community​.

Given the serious implications of these incidents, there is an urgent call for the Pakistani government to enact a human rights-centric personal data protection law. This law is crucial to protect the privacy of individuals and address the misuse of surveillance technologies. Advocacy groups and digital rights organizations continue to push for legislative reforms to ensure the protection of privacy and the rights of women in Pakistan​.

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