Women’s safety has been a topic that garners opinions and debates for decades now. Owing to the widespread discrimination and inequality embedded against women in the society already, it wasn’t enough for them to be subjected to violence and abuse offline, that the same commenced being replicated online as well. Harassment directed at women based on their gender is a sad reality of the current times.
Social media platforms proved to be boon worldwide for enabling people to learn, share, and grow. But the same platforms have lately become everything but a safe space for women. The mediums which were meant to lend voices even to the voiceless, as we saw in the #metoo movement, are turning into a breeding ground for misogyny and extend all the offline sexism and objectification that prevails, online. These unprecedented ways of violence against women online is also a hurdle in their freedom of expression and the right to equality. Online abuse can exist in different ways including threats of violence, privacy violations ( picture morphing and much more) or sexist and misogynistic comments, and can also have serious psychological impacts on female users. It can be anything, stress, anxiety, or even worse, panic attacks.
According to Amnesty International, in India, research has shown that increasing access to the internet has resulted in more and more women facing online violence and abuse for participating in public life and sharing their opinions on social media platforms. In the recent past, journalists like Barkha Dutt, Sagarika Ghosh and Rana Ayyub, student leaders like Shehla Rashid, and actors like Swara Bhaskar have faced online abuse, for merely expressing their opinions online whereas women politicians in India receive on average 113 problematic or abusive tweets per day, including threats and badgering. Seeing even the most prominent of the personalities being subjected to such viciousness, it ignites concern for the ones who have been silenced into accepting it as a con of having access to social media.
Recently a series of disturbing tweets, Instagram stories, and screenshots took the netizens by a swirl. A boys chat group named as “boys or bois locker room” got busted for repeatedly objectifying girls, morphing their images and passing lewd comments. A screengrab was also shared where a boy could be seen convincing others to gangrape a girl. Though it should be noted that these are two different cases as the mediums are different – Instagram and Snapchat. The tweets and IG stories have received a lot of responses, some of the people who have commented have also identified a few boys as their classmates, schoolmates or knowns. What is even more shocking is the fact that the girls being shamed in the said group are all underage. Police intervention is currently being sought in the situation.
The user even shared the list of the participants of the group. Many of the listed IG handles have gone unavailable since the screengrabs surfaced online.
Later on, participants of the said group anonymously resorted to warning the girl who busted them.
The boys involved in the said case should be dealt with under the following sections sternly: Section 345A of IPC, which holds them accountable for one-year imprisonment- for posting lewd comments on social media.
Section 507 of IPC holds them punishable for 2 years threatening a woman by any kind of anonymous communication which is also intimidating. Section 509 of IPC- 3 years of imprisonment with a fine for posting sexual pictures or remarks or videos including sexual insinuations on social media.Section 503 of IPC- 2 years of imprisonment for threatening a woman by either alarming or malign her reputation.Section 499 of IPC- 2 years of imprisonment for defaming a woman online.
This instance also poses a chain of questions as to what led these boys belonging to the age bracket of 15-18 to resort to this. Is it the deep-rooted male toxicity and privilege? Is it unnecessary access to internet facility? But for sure, it is a crystal clear case of female objectification online if nothing else, which once again revives the argument that mere lip service, never-ending pages about privacy policies on the part of the social media companies aren’t enough to safeguard the women’s rights online. It requires resources, transparency, and coordinated action from social media companies and governments.
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