Rape threats make women quit virtual life

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Women can’t escape the shadow of fear, even in the virtual world. More and more women are experiencing abuse, name calling and harassment on various social media forums. Activist Kavita Krishnan became the latest target of online abusers while she was participating in a live web discussion organised by Rediff.

Sharing with us the harrowing experience and her reaction to it, Kavita narrates, “The discussion was on violence against women and I was answering the questions streaming for me. Then this abuser, with handle RAPIST (in block letters) showed up with suggestions like ‘tell women to dress up properly, then we won’t rape them’. After more such nonsense, he asked me, ‘Kavita tell me where I should come and rape you using condom’,” she says. He didn’t stop there, his threats continued, she adds. Kavita, who’s the secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, went ahead and immediately filed an FIR.
“This is not for the first time and I am not the only one. Like the real world, virtual world too is full of trolls who have no other work but to harass people,” she says.
According to a study by the Internet Democracy Project (IDP), ‘An exploratory study of women and verbal online abuse in India’, there is an increase in online abuse of women. It said that to be a woman online is just like “to be a woman walking the streets of an Indian city, town or village — is to transgress an unwritten law of patriarchy; to cross over into a space that isn’t meant to be yours”.
Manisha Roy, 23, says that she had to deactivate her Twitter account after she could not handle trolls on cybersphere. “I felt like a permanent target of anonymous abusers. Every tweet I made was met with vulgar comments. They went to the extent of abusing my family, passed lewd remarks and even threatened to rape me,” she says.
Those who chose to go offline after threats by stalkers include a Delhi-based celebrity, who on condition of anonomity says that she was shocked after a troll went very personal on Twitter and started talking about her previous relationships and even threatened to leak some of her old photographs. “It was a horror. The account was anonymous and when we tried to trace the IP adress, it turned out to be from somewhere outside India. The only option was to quit Twitter,” she says. “Reaching out to police was the last thing that we wanted because we know how non-serious they are about such issues. I didn’t want to end up as a victim myself,” she adds.
Cyber law expert, Pavan Duggal has been attending to numerious calls from celebrities and young professionals who are facing abuse online. He says the cyber world is only a reflection of the real world and for women it has become difficult to survive there.
“One of the reasons why we are seeing a rise in stalking is that the abusers know that they will get away with it. We need strong laws to curb such crimes. However, cyber bullying is punishable under Section 66 A of the IT Act,” he informs. He also adds that we as a society need to come out of denial mode when it comes to abuse of women online.

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