Women power? Hardly

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The social media has made them more vulnerable than before

Reams will be dedicated to celebrating the power of women on March 8, International Women’s Day. According to a UN report, the percentage of women in national parliaments has nearly doubled in the past 20 years — a mere 22 per cent in actual terms. Of late, women’s voices are being silenced in devious ways, thanks to the social media. Instances of trolling, body shaming, stalking, and threats of death, rape and other sexual attacks in cyberspace are growing. While men are equally trolled and shamed, the sexual undertones of online abuses hurled at women are an ugly reflection of the rot that has taken root. The purpose clearly is to bully and silence women, be they political leaders, activists, advocates, journalists, actors, or a college girl with a mind of her own. Take the case of Gurmehar Kaur, a Delhi student whose social media post decrying goondaism by the ABVP in Ramjas College created a storm and invited big-time trolling and threats. The traumatised girl eventually left the city.

According to a report in a UK national daily, Jess Phillips, the Labour MP from Haringay, said she received 600 rape threats in just one night after she launched a campaign to end online sexist bullying. What is most disconcerting, however, is when women themselves troll other women whose views they do not share, or ministers and celebrities (as seen in Gurmehar’s case) emboldening such trolls by joining the ‘mind game’ to silence women.

On the one hand, social media offers a powerful platform to voice concerns and form alliances across geographical boundaries, but its growing use by online mobs as a weapon to silence women who dare to voice their views is cause for worry. To weave a healthy social fabric, governments, private players and civil society have to jointly deal with this issue, while taking utmost care to protect privacy.

Senior Deputy Editor

Published on March 07, 2017

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