Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj’s Twitter abuse at hands of trolls took a misogynist turn recently. One man tweeted to her husband, the former Governor of Mizoram, Swaraj Kaushal, that he should beat his wife when she gets back home and “teach her not to do appeasement”. All this hatred towards one of the most respected politicians in the country is a result of External Affairs Ministry’s action to grant a passport to an interfaith couple (who had allegedly applied with incomplete documentation) and transferring the official without holding a proper inquiry (after the couple claimed facing religious discrimination from him.)
According to an NDTV report, a man claiming to be an IIT Delhi graduate had posted the toxic tweet, provoking Kaushal to hit his wife.
The ex-governor came forward in defence of his wife and criticised the hate she has been facing on social media. “Your words have given us unbearable pain. Just to share with you, my mother died of cancer in 1993. Sushma was an MP and a former Education Minister. She lived in the hospital for a year. She refused to engage a medical attendant and attended on my dying mother personally.
Such was her devotion to the family. As per my father’s wish, she lit my father’s pyre. We adore her. Please do not use such words for her. We are first generation in law and politics. We pray for nothing more than her life. Pls convey my profound regards to your wife.”
Normalisation of violence against women by trolls
It is shameful that an educated man advocated domestic violence so casually, as if it is a normal occurrence in Indian households
Indian men like him continue to opine that women, even at the highest echelons, must get a beating at hands of their husbands. It is their duty to teach their wives a lesson for doing anything which they or the society doesn’t approve of. It is their job to keep their wives on a leash and use force, like carriage drawers whip horses, to keep women “on the right track”.
This sense of righteousness is handed down to them by our patriarchal society, which considers men to be superior, wiser and more righteous than women. So the wife may be a doctor, an entrepreneur, a devoted homemaker or the Minister of External Affairs of one of the largest democracies in the world. She must get a good beating every once in a while, to keep her grounded.
Shame on this man! But we cannot expect him or others, who agree with his thinking, to understand how gender equality works, because they are never taught about it. That Swaraj and Kaushal’s marriage is an alliance of equals and that is how they see it, will pass right over heads of men who consider women to be lesser beings.
It is easy to guise such misogyny as activism, trolling or even moral policing. But rid all these threats of their superficial reasoning and what we have is blatant aggression aimed to subdue women
Just look at the number of violent threats women receive on social media. So many trolls make casual rape and murder threats to women. They go to great lengths to justify their stand, as if it somehow gives validity to their aggression. And it does. Swaraj conducted a poll on Twitter, asking how many found the vile virtual attacks on her justified. Shockingly, some 43 per cent people felt she deserved such harsh trolling.
Friends : I have liked some tweets. This is happening for the last few days. Do you approve of such tweets ? Please RT
— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) June 30, 2018
This poll is a mirror of where we stand as a society. We are a country which defends aggressive trolling of a senior female politician. She has done so much credible work in last four years, yet all people care for right now is her handling of the interfaith couple’s passport issue. How insecure and defensive of our beliefs have we become? Also, how intolerant are Indians today, that instead of criticising the man who is asking Kaushal to hit his wife, they are asking the leader why she hasn’t handled the issue at the centre of this controversy yet? A woman’s dignity, her social standing, her position in our country is not of any importance in India today.
Swaraj is left without any support because the said controversy is of more relevance to Indians today, than all her previous achievements
Threats and encouragements of violence against women are never justified, no matter what the context is. Stop making women the scapegoats in your hatred fuelled games of social media trolling. I hope the ex-governor and the Minister of External Affairs make an example out of this man. Don’t just report him to cyber cell, drag him to court and sue him.
We are a long way from becoming a gender equal society. Where domestic violence is always seen as a crime and never a righteous act of disciplining. Till then, people who advocate it must bear the cost of their frivolous entitled mentality, legally, professionally, monetarily and socially. That seems like the only way to discourage aggression against women on social media as of now.
Picture Credit: Telugu Mirchi
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.