With the Supreme Court doing away with Section 66A of the IT Act and the internet subsequently rejoicing over #FreedomOfSpeech, my cynical mind started thinking how this decision affects me as a person or as a feminist in the web space. I realized it does not make much of a difference to feminists or women in general on the internet. We have been persecuted for things we do outside of the social networking space and will continue to be persecuted. We have been trolled on the internet, slandered, and a lot more and it will still be done now. While I am happy that finally the Supreme Court has taken a decision that India stands by, I am skeptical about further legal decisions that need to be taken in favour of the women’s rights in India.
Let’s just take the example of trolls on the internet. If you are a woman, and have breast and a vagina, you have been propositioned for sex at least 5 times on the internet in the past month. If you are a woman, you have an others folder on Facebook that is filled with creepy messages that show how much a person can stalk you on the web. If you are a woman on twitter, you have been called a cunt, a whore, a prostitute and a number of Hindi gaalis that have nothing to do with you but everything to do with your anatomy. Same for Reddit, but there people don’t exactly know who they are cursing and you don’t know who you are being cursed by. All this happened before the abolition of sec 66A and will continue after as well. In fact, they have no fear of anything anymore. Freedom of speech is a double-sided sword and feminists get cut more than they manage to cut.
After the AIB roast controversy, Deepika Padukone and Sonakshi Sinha’s walls on both Facebook and Twitter were flooded with filthy language from people who did not “approve” of their laughing at sex related jokes. At any given day KRK says more vulgar things than anybody else to all the female celebrities on Twitter. He comments on their butts and even compared Bipasha Basu’s breasts to papayas. Did anyone ever even think of arresting him? NO!
When Rega Jha, the Buzzfeed India editor tweeted that Pakistanis will still be hotter than Indians no matter who wins the cricket match, the bruised male ego retaliated with ugly remarks about her person. Apart from telling her to go to Pakistan, some men asked her to ‘wax her unwanted hair’ and guessed she ‘banged an ugly Paki’. Of course there were the rape threats, because rape is a weapon that is wielded on the real as well as virtual world. And the list will go on.
In the Indian version of the web, anything can be made sexist. India lost to Australia in the semi-finals at the world cup and the male fans immediately made it Anushka Sharma’s fault. Taking sexism to new heights, they made sure to voice their opinions as to how dating Anushka Sharma was Virat Kohli’s biggest problem. They went ahead to say that he would have played better if she wasn’t in Sydney and that he did not play a long innings because Anushka wanted him in the hotel room. Someone even asked people to throw stones at her house. Well done Indians! slow clap
Women in general are abused and taunted on a daily basis on the internet. Even if there are laws in place, men do not get penalized for verbal abuse and torment meted out via social networking sites. If you search for pornography on the internet, almost all of the Indian material out there are spy cam videos taken of women who have no idea they are being filmed. These videos are not taken down or reported; they are only circulated and commented on. There have been multiple instances where a peeved ex-boyfriend has put up nude pictures of women on the internet. These men weren’t punished before the abolition of sec 66A and will not be persecuted after.
From a feminist in India point of view, I see no change in the male behavior on the internet. What we really need is awareness and a change in the male consciousness. Internet is still used to spew hatred through a virtual world that wouldn’t have been possible in the real world. We feminists go by the mantra that the personal is political but I think feminism isn’t political enough yet, and hence not taken seriously enough to condemn harsh sexism and blatant misogyny on the internet. Feminism also hasn’t percolated to every conscious woman and man in India. Feminism does not make money or influence votes. Feminism does not beget position and power; at least not the kind of power that is coveted by many. Hence, feminism does not derive benefits from laws, abolition of laws and amendment of laws. We benefit from awareness, education and belief in equality. We are fighting our fight but there’s still miles to go before we sleep.
Featured Image Credit: Anonymous India