Karela Fry

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Sexual abuse online

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Caravan has an article worth talking about:

In April, feminist activist Kavita Krishnan was invited by the news website Rediff to participate in a chat about rape and the protests that followed the gang rape of a young girl in New Delhi in December 2012. The public conversation was soon hijacked by a user with the handle @RAPIST, who began to comment with statements such as, “Kavita tell me where I should come and rape you using condom,” repeated numerous times. The threats were in capital letters, impossible to miss. During the course of the chat, as Krishnan and others later pointed out, Rediff did nothing to intervene or prevent the abuse from taking place. Significantly, the abuse Krishnan faced seemed to have less to do with her anti-rape work or what she said on the subject, and more to do with the fact that she was speaking in a highly public forum—as a woman.

I recently co-authored a research study for the Internet Democracy Project entitled “Don’t Let It Stand!”: An Exploratory Study of Women and Verbal Abuse Online in India, which through interviews with 17 women across the country, sought to examine the various forms of verbal abuse women face online, the contexts of this abuse, and the strategies women develop in response to these forms of violence. The study established that women internet users, including mummy bloggers, journalists, and other social media enthusiasts face various forms of verbal misogyny online. In the last year alone, we have seen rape threats to Dalit poet Meena Kandasamy after she tweeted about a beef eating festival, threats by Congress Party member Amaresh Misra calling for violence against Modi supporter Shilpi Tewari, and the sexist, violent abuse faced by South Indian singer Chinmayi Sripada following comments she made questioning the death of fishermen in the waters near Tamil Nadu.

The internet’s early proponents, like some enthusiasts today, believed it would be a truly democratic space, in which all its users could participate equally. However, what happens online is still firmly rooted in the realities and hierarchies that exist offline. Women’s experiences of public space are characterised by sexual harassment, unwelcome advances, intrusions into personal space, and comments that may be discriminatory or hateful.

The Indian IT law does have a section which can be used to force service providers to remove such content and exercise due diligence in preventing them in the first place.


Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

July 22, 2013 at 2:19 pm

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