Ah, the internet. A place to expand your horizons, a one stop shop for all your information needs, and an endless source of cat gifs. Sounds pretty swell right? Well, if you’re a woman user of this millennium-defining technology then chances are you’ve also seen the other side of the coin. We’re talking about online harassment.
For the women who work at Youth Ki Awaaz, this represents a major affront to an individual’s right to access internet services, safely and with dignity. Sharing their thoughts on it in this video, they offer a look into what it’s like to be a woman on the internet in a world that dances to patriarchy’s fiddle. And, of course, it isn’t pretty.
From vicious comments to outright abuse and blackmail, the internet poses some pretty horrible threats, and all of them are levelled disproportionately at women users. The Pew Research Centre found that “[y]oung women experience particularly severe forms of online harassment”, such as being called offensive names, being purposefully embarrassed, stalked, sexually harassed, physically threatened and being harassed for a sustained period of time. Yet another survey by the Digital Rights Foundation revealed that 40% of women in Pakistan have faced online harassment. Over in India, women do not make up the majority of India’s netizens – not even close. On Facebook, they make up just 24% of the total. Part of this is about access. But the other part, without doubt, is because the internet can be so openly hostile to women.
Things have gotten so bad on Indian web spaces, that Kolkata based social activist Pranaadhika Sinha Devburman had to start ‘Shontu’, a Facebook page that documents instances of harassment and other creepy, disconcerting behaviour. As with so many things, women are now refusing to back down. Because it’s time to lay claim to the spaces we exist in.The internet is really no space for hate.