TW: Harassment, Verbal Abuse
There is no question that India is a magnificent country in terms of its landscape, food & culture, history, arts, and sciences. India is so diverse that if you travel from one corner of the nation to another, you will be transported to a seemingly different world altogether. However, one thing India is not is a welcoming country for women. While this is something almost every woman living in the country knows, most of us learn to adapt accordingly. We think twice about the amount of attention our clothes will attract, whether we should stay out late, get into a cab alone, and the list goes on.
Even online spaces aren’t safe for women from abuse and harassment.
But that is not all. In the past decade, with the rise in popularity of social media platforms, it is not just the streets of India that remain unsafe. Every photo and video that is put up on the internet is susceptible to trolls and degrading comments. Needless to mention, women bear the brunt of online abuse as well, sometimes the perpetrators being women themselves, but more so, men.
To quote The Observer Research Foundation, “Women occupying – or attempting to occupy — public spaces have faced abuse, hatred and bile, especially those in traditionally male-dominated areas like politics.” It will come as no surprise that according to Amnesty International, after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, one in every seven tweets that mentioned women politicians in India was ‘problematic’ or ‘abusive’ while one in every five amongst these tweets was sexist or misogynistic.
Just like we have adapted to bullying and harassment on the streets by carrying pepper spray or wearing ‘modest’ clothes; on social media, we use features like blocking/deleting on public platforms like Instagram and Facebook. In fact, more often than it should be, women also choose to ignore hate comments/messages to avoid attracting attention to themselves or just because they don’t know how to call out their perpetrators.
Saloni Chopra, an actor, writer, and influencer posted a beautiful picture of herself with her mother on Instagram, at peace with themselves. In 5 days, some of the comments written by Indian men under her picture were nothing short of degrading, sexist, misogynistic, and threatening. On the 26th of April, 2021, Saloni posted a powerful video calling out all those men and saying that this is exactly why women need feminism. To quote her, “I feel really bad because women in India have to put up with this shit. It’s a threat to your existence. It is not too far from harming women physically.”
View this post on Instagram
View this post on Instagram
Her video left me moved and angry. Nothing she said or I have written in this article is new, which is exactly why we need to be angry. We need to question the status quo and demand answers and actions. What gives men the confidence to be reptiles on social media and more often than not, get away with it? Why is it that young girls in India are conditioned to ignore/put up with such people, online and in the real world? As a young woman in India, why do I not feel safe every time I leave my house and why do I think twice before posting a picture on social media?
As for administrative actions, perhaps, if the Government spent half the time & resources it does on campaigning for votes; on women’s safety, this discourse would have been very different.
This article is inspired by Saloni Chopra and her courage to call out her perpetrators on social media. We need better men in this country so that we don’t have to need more women like her.