Close on the heels of the #SalmanKhan controversy, comes another case of online abuse. A few days ago, Salman Khan gave a statement wherein he compared his hard work and subsequent physical exhaustion in his upcoming movie Sultan, to that of a rape victim. While social media remained divided over the issue, with the hashtags #InsensitiveSalman and #SalmanMisquoted delineating the different opinions, there was another issue which came up due to this. Popular singer Sona Mohapatra, singer of “Bahara” and “Ambarsariya”, tweeted about the issue, like many others.
Soon after this tweet, social media erupted once again. However, this time, it was to abuse the singer, for speaking up against their ‘Bhai’.
In response, Sona Mohapatra did reply to these trolls, by saying that they have just proved her point regarding the misogyny and ill treatment of women. We had earlier written about the instances of Barkha Dutt and Kavita Krishnan being trolled on Twitter for various statements they had made, and we continue to be shocked by how trolling has become the akin to sexual harassment, with respect to how common it seems to be. It seems that people are waiting for prominent women to voice their opinions on cyber space, so that they can be trolled.
What makes the case of Sona Mohapatra unique is that up until now, no prominent figure, Bollywood or otherwise, had an opinion to make regarding the Salman Khan issue. And the only one who happens to do so, is a woman, who was told to shut up.
In a recent study by The Guardian, it was found that eight of ten most abused writers were women. These numbers are disgraceful, because it seems like the patriarchical notions against women have now entered the seemingly neutral cyber space.
Recently, in line with increasing cases of trolling and cyber crime, Union minister Maneka Gandhi has decided to take concrete action against these cases. The Women and Child Development minister has decided to take up the matter with Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and ministry of Information Technology to come up with a mechanism to tackle and punish such miscreants. The minister has also called upon officials of Facebook and Twitter to seek their assistance in tackling the menace of online trolling. Launching the initiative, Maneka tweeted on Tuesday asking all aggrieved women to send their complaints to her personal email address — email@example.com. Women can also tweet using the hashtag #IamTrolledHelp. This initiative has already gotten an excellent response from women, from all corners of the country.
At Centre for Social Research, we are strong believers of safe online spaces, and our work advocates healthy counter speech and knowing how to maintain your privacy and dignity online. This move by the government is highly appreciated as it is a definite need of the hour. The online space is severely under-represented by women, and cases such as these will only serve to discourage women from making their opinions public. We wish this initiative all the best, and urge all aggrieved women to take solid action against cyber crime immediately.
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