Online threats, where Indian men, usually from the far fanatic right as well as Hindu nationalists, openly threaten to rape the women posting online about women’s rights and criticizing the male chauvinist culture in India. The threats are reportedly the most typical provocation to violence against women.
A study by Internet Democracy Project (IDP) “An exploratory study of women and verbal online abuse in India” confirmed the increase in online abuse of women. It said that to be a woman online is just like “to be a woman walking the streets of an Indian city, town or village – is to transgress an unwritten law of patriarchy; to cross over into a space that isn’t meant to be yours,” as reported Saira Kurup for TNN.
The IDP study found that women faced being called names and abuses online, getting their defaced pictures posted online and receiving threats, etc. The trigger however could be anything from a tweet on rape, to a blog on a politician or a peace process, or even on inoffensive issues and pictures.
Anja Kovacs, director of IDP in India, says, “Threats are being used to silence women. Online abuse of women is increasing in India because more people are coming online.”
As per the Internet and Mobile Association of India’s 2013 report, 52 percent of working women and 55 percent of non-working women are using social media in India.
One Twitter user and author started an online campaign against child sex abuse, and a user tweeted back child pornography links to her.
Anja says that men also face online abuse, but the quality and content are different. She added that “The abuse directed at women is about their body, sexualisation, swear words. The sexual abuse that men receive is also directed at the women in their lives- mother, sister, wife,” as reported by TNN.
Debarati Halder, advocate and MD of Centre for Cyber Victim Counselling in Tirunelveli said “Many prefer to remove these abusive posts (or) remain silent. They feel it will be harassment once the police start interrogating them and their names would be published in the media.”
The grim reality is that so far Indian streets were considered unsafe for women but now women online too are exposed to abuse. It’s time that the bane of a patriarchal society is put to rest and offenders are punished and sexual harassment be curbed in the nation.