Actor Richa Chadha was targeted on Twitter for expressing her opinion, recently. She received death and rape threats which highlight the price that Indian women pay for having a point of view, specially on social media. All because her personal views haven’t gone down well with some, who think the best way to counter a woman’s stand is to threaten her of sexual harm.
हाँ है भारत में हिन्दू घर्म को ख़तरा।हिंदू धर्म को ख़तरा है हिन्दुत्ववादियों से। धर्म बचाओ,हिन्दुत्ववादियों को भगाओ। जनहित में जारी।— TheRichaChadha (@RichaChadha) May 5, 2018
The kind of abuse and slander @RichaChadha is facing on #Twitter amounts to harassment quite clearly.. @TwitterIndia @Twitter u wanna take some action and block these accounts that clearly violate ur community standards! Shame on this filth and u stay strong Richa! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/DfTckAE4U2— Swara Bhasker (@ReallySwara) May 9, 2018
It is okay for people to not agree with Chadha' views. We are all entitled to disagree, but it is definitely not acceptable to threaten a woman of rape and murder just because her opinion doesn't align with yours.
The unrestrained menace of sexual harassment on social media
Threatening women of sexual harm as counter-argument is nothing new. Men in our country have been using gendered abuses for this purpose since ages. The tendency to threaten a woman sexually, or tarnish her reputation is not specific to any ideology. It is deeply associated with the misogyny which prompts men to draw out their most barbaric verbal weapons. Religion, caste, political affiliation, fandom etc are all mere excuses. The true culprits here are Indian men’s increasing volatility and their ability to get away with it.
However, this tendency to harass women or female relatives increases tenfold on social media platforms, especially Twitter. The said platform is increasingly becoming a breeding ground for online abusers. It is easy to call women names or threaten them with rape or murder for men who hide behind fake handles and profile pictures, because their virtual existence comes with lack of accountability.
Apart from blaming Twitter India for failing to take action against these trolls, let us for a moment assert where we the virtual community have gone wrong. It’s true that most do report such horrific threats to cyber-crime unit or Twitter, but only when they are directed to the people we side with. There is a bias in condemnation of such threats as well.
I am not accusing all of the Indian Twitteratti, but how many of us choose to scroll past a woman’s abuse if her political or social stand is not in sync with ours?
Almost every woman on social media faces sexual harassment at hands of these trolls. They hide behind the mask of ideology or political affiliation. But our will to counter online sexual abuse shouldn’t be directed by this mask. An abuser is an abuser, no matter what he stands for. A rational mind would never have to stoop as low as to call a woman a prostitute for having an opinion. He or she would counter her views with his or her intellect. It is natural to disagree with someone’s point of view and argue with them. But it is lowly to use threats of sexual harm and violence to dominate a woman.
Such people are the by-product of a system which has always taught men to tame independent and intellectual women by sexual subjugation.
Hence if we want to curb sexual harassment of women on social media, then first and foremost we need to get rid of the misogyny in our society which makes men intolerant to women's opinion. Secondly, we need to unanimously condemn such incidences whether or not we agree with a woman’s point of view. Sexual harassment is never justified. Not even in case of differing political, social or cultural views. There is always a space for intellectual war of words. Only those with nothing else to say opt for abusive language and threats.
Picture Credit: funroundup.com
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.