The government’s National Commission for Women (NCW) has, of late, come down with a heavy hand on incidents of sexism that social media users have been vigilantly flagging online. The most recent of these reactions is the one to a tweet made by actor Siddharth, whose sexually charged remark to badminton champion Saina Nehwal has evoked national outrage. NCW too, was quick to act and directed an FIR against the Rang De Basanti star for the offensive he threw. NCW Reacts To Siddharth Tweet
“Subtle cock champion of the world… Thank God we have protectors of India,” Siddharth tweeted on January 6 to Nehwal, who had remarked strongly on the Prime Minister’s security lapse in Punjab. More here. In a follow-up tweet, Siddharth claimed nothing “disrespectful” was insinuated or meant through his statement, but the damage was done and the women’s commission had already moved seeking action.
What’s more, the actor further came under NCW’s radar when netizens dug out an old tweet of his to news anchor Navika Kumar, in which he referred to her as a “stoolkit.” Read here. NCW has sought police action here too.
Accountability must be demanded and delivered in incidents regarding sexism such as that which surrounds Siddharth’s case.
The digital safety of women is markedly compromised today, with each statement they make turning up abusive comments. Attacks are rained on outspoken women everyday, especially on a no-holds-barred platform like Twitter. And though women have cried themselves hoarse calling for better community guidelines, have social media giants cared to yield results? Are the presently ill-defined safety rules being able to identify and act against fine-pointed attacks?
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In the absence of such online security, it becomes imperative for women’s rights organisations, advocacy groups and panels to stay on their feet, bookmark harassment and press for correction. Such is the (virtual) world we live in that there are hundreds of cases regarding women that demand this kind of expert attention every single day.
While the NCW, which is the premier setup of its kind given its central-level operation, is active in its pursuit of women’s safety, the circumstances we live in lead us to question what really is changing for women. Has the NCW’s prompt recognition of harassment or abuse incidents been able to deter attacks against women online? Is the action being taken effective?
Is enough being done to transform, sensitise and liberalise Indian thought to the cause of women’s issues at a micro operational level?
Can women expect to feel safe enough to voice their opinions online without the fear of being insulted or abused with the current measures in place? Will we see change till mentalities don’t?
In only the first few days of 2022, NCW has been busy. Siddharth’s old and new tweets have ruffled feathers. Hairstylist Jawed Habib inexplicably spat on a woman’s head during a workshop recently, for which he was pulled up by the NCW. As per latest updates, Habib appeared before NCW with a written apology Tuesday, as directed.
In another significant development, NCW said they held a hearing Tuesday with the Director-General of Police, Uttar Pradesh and other officials regarding inflammatory speech by saffron priest Yati Narsinghanand, and a chargesheet has been filed in three FIRs.
Does apology ensure culpability?
While all these men, and more, are being brought to book for a range of reasons, experience and visible general lethargy at the administrative level to ensure long-term safety prevents women from believing they are ever secure on the internet. The recent ‘Bulli Bai auction’ targeting of Muslim women shows the vicious extent cyber-abuse can extend to if allowed to breed.
Our central establishments and law and order systems need to do better in ensuring ground-up change in tandem with pushing digital platforms for effective action towards women’s safety. Standalone complaints and the odd stern reaction to gender abuse online are hardly doing much for our benefit.