On 25th July 2016, an ex student of St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, put up a post on Facebook detailing the ways in which she was continually harassed by Rex Fernandez, a Mumbai based musician (also an ex student of St. Xavier’s). She talked about the inappropriate messages Rex sent her, also mentioning that he would stalk her in college premises. As part of her post, she included screenshots of lewd messages he had sent to other women.
Soon after, a number of women commented on the post, sharing similar experiences. One even shared several screenshots which would have further acted as solid proof against the culprit.
However, the woman’s post was reported by Rex’s brother, and taken down the very same day. Though she put up the post again, the testimonies of her friends, including the screenshots, have been lost.
Once again, on the morning of 27th July, Facebook took her post down, and also barred her from publishing new posts or messaging anyone for the next 24 hours.
Since the original post was published, 3 other women have told her they have been harassed by Rex – they just didn’t have the courage to speak about it until now. One woman even stated that she had known Rex a long time, and is aware that he behaves inappropriately with a lot of women.
This comes just days after a student of Kolkata’s Jadavpur University put up a post on Facebook narrating her experience of physical and online harassment, perpetrated by Ekalavya Chaudhuri, an undergraduate student in the University’s English department. At this point, 13 women, have come out and spoken up against Ekalavya.
The JU student’s post was also removed by Facebook, along with its over 1, 000 shares: Once again Facebook’s ‘Community Standards’ failed women. While posts by Men’s Rights Activists glorifying rape and violence against women are rarely taken down, time and time again Facebook has systematically suppressed any genuine voice of dissent. However, this time, the original post was re-published by thousands who had taken screenshots- making her story go viral.
While Facebook’s hypocrisy remains well known, these two cases have also served to reveal just how unsafe our university and college spaces are: what are meant to be safe havens of learning are in fact rife with misogyny. In both these cases, the perpetrators were popular on campus and beyond, one being a much admired debater and the son of a professor at that very university, and the other a well known musician-thus making it that much harder for their victims to speak up.
All it takes though, is one woman. One woman who speaks up, giving strength to thousands more who are facing similar, if not worse situations. One woman who speaks up, thus making it that much easier for others to do the same: and that’s what is important about the JU student’s account- it’s giving a voice to many who have been silenced for much too long.
Featured Image Credit: “People first,” the slide behind Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg proclaims | Business Insider