Why are Indian women being attacked on social media? #Vaw #Womenrights

By Divya AryaBBC Hindi, Delhi, May 8,2013

Sagarika GhoseSagarika Ghose has stopped giving her views on Twitter

What does a top woman journalist do when she is threatened regularly with gang rape and stripping on Twitter?

And what about when her teenage daughter’s name and details of her class and school are tweeted too?

“It was very disturbing. I didn’t know what to do. So for a few days I had her picked up and dropped off to school in our car and not via public transport, because I was really scared,” says Sagarika Ghose, a well-known face of Indian television news, who anchors prime-time bulletins on CNN-IBN and writes for a leading newspaper.

On Twitter, she has more than 177,000 followers.

“Targeting me for my journalism is fine. But when it is sexist and foul-mouthed abuse which insults my gender identity I get incredibly angry. In the beginning I used to retaliate, but that would lead to more abuse.”

Ms Ghose says women abused on Twitter in India tend to to be “liberal and secular”.

“The abusers are right wing nationalists, angry at women speaking their mind. They have even coined a term for us – ‘sickular’.”

Ms Ghose has now decided to stop putting out her views on Twitter.

“I just put out our programmes and disseminate information. Though I still re-tweet some of the abusive tweets because there has to be awareness of what women journalists face. What else can you do?”

Vicious attack

Kavita Krishnan, a prominent Delhi-based women’s activist, was attacked viciously during a recent online chat on violence against women onRediff.com, one of India’s leading news websites.

“It began well. I had answered a few interesting questions. And then one person, with the handle @RAPIST, started posting abusive comments. He then asked me where he could come to rape me using a condom,” she said.

She says she decided to leave the chat after the abuse continued.

Ms Krishnan considers herself “thick skinned, used to addressing difficult questions and dealing with abuse”, but this, she says, was “sexual harassment”.

“What angered me was that Rediff didn’t ensure that their guest was given a safe environment, the chat was not moderated nor was the abusive handle blocked.”

Meena KandasamyMeena Kandasamy chose to go to the police when she faced online abuse

Rediff did not respond to BBC’s requests for an interview.

However, they posted an edited transcript of the chat on their website. The offensive posts had been removed and an apology made to Ms Krishnan.

More than 90 million Indians are active users of Facebook and Twitter and a large number of them are women. Cyber stalking and bullying of women are common.

Writer-activist Meena Kandasamy chose to go to the police when she faced sexist abuse online.

Last year, she had tweeted about abeef-eating festival at a university in the city of Hyderabad after which she was threatened with “live-telecasted gang-rape and being torched alive and acid attacks”.

Hindus who regard cows as sacred had clashed with low-caste Dalit groups who had organised the event.

“On an average, I get about 30 to 50 abusive tweets on days when I am active on Twitter. During the beef festival, there were more than 800 tweets in a span of two to three hours,” Ms Kandasamy says.


She believes that many Indian men react to posts that are critical of “caste and of Hindu nationalism”.

“I face the threat of violence even outside this virtual world in terms of people who don’t like my writings, my politics. Copies of my books have been burnt. I feel that kind of pain is far more deep and real than anonymous trolls and threats,” says Ms Kandasamy.

K Jaishankar, a teacher of criminology who has been studying bullying, stalking and defamation of women online, says India’s “patriarchal mindset has pervaded the internet space”.

“Men don’t like women to talk back. Public personalities who express strong opinions are trolled in a bid to force them off line,” he says.

Mr Jaishankar, who counsels victims of cyber crime along with his colleague and lawyer Debarati Haldar, says that Indian users online are largely male introverts who have found the web a place where they can express themselves freely and anonymously.

Kavita KrishnanKavita Krishnan was attacked on an online chat

“These men could be respectable professionals such as doctors, lawyers or professors in real life but online, they tend to show a darker side.”

Most of the women affected online do not go to the police, Ms Haldar says. Instead, they try to get the objectionable content removed, which is not usually easy.

India has a law – Section 66A of India’s Information Technology [IT] Act – against sending inflammatory and indecent messages on the internet and in recent times it has been used by the state as a weapon against dissent.

But, Ms Haldar says, women facing cyber bullying of a sexual nature have not been able to convince the authorities to take action against their abusers under the law.

“In many instances, when I motivated the woman to go to the police, they came back and told me that their complaints were dismissed as trivial. Instead, the police told them that it was not necessary for women to give their opinion on social media.”

Ms Haldar says the authorities must take these cases more seriously and charge the offenders under Section 66A of the IT law.

Even charging the offenders under the existing laws on sexual harassment could go a long way in curbing such abuse against women, she says.


#India – Little Girls Are Most at Risk #Rape #Vaw


Little Girls Are Most at Risk: Legislation alone cannot save women trapped in a patriarchal culture
TAGS: Rape | Girl raped in Delhi | Physical abuse in DelhiViolence against girls
Cold-hearted legal system sees no shame in serving the interests of sex offenders
When news of a five-year-old girl’s brutalisation and rape in east Delhi was followed by news of the police attempting to bribe her parents to prevent them from filing a complaint and beating up anti-rape protesters, it exposed the police officers as patriarchy’s foot soldiers.
Courthouses haven’t fared much better than their police station counterparts either. Kirti Singh and Dhivya Kapur’s 2001 study on law, violence and the girl child pointed out glaring incidents of the Indian judiciary‘s misogyny in the case of child rapes: The Delhi High Court considered penetration of a girl child and forced oral sex as ‘molestation’; another judge ruled out child rape in the absence of injury to the man’s penis; when a woman accused her husband of attempting to rape their three-year-old infant, the Supreme Court said in its opening statement that incredulous, eerie accusations had been made, blamed the mother for manipulation of the child’s vagina and refused to believe the victim’s assertion that her father violated her. When the police force normalises the occurrence of rape and the cold-hearted legal system sees no shame in serving the interests of sex offenders, it becomes clear that the state machinery has divested itself of the responsibility of protecting children.

Meena Kandasamy
Meena Kandasamy

Given the high incidence of sexual and physical abuse within families-statistics show that in a majority of the cases, the abusers were known to the children-no one can take shelter in the naive belief that children are safe in their homes or neighbourhoods. The unearthing of skeletons of at least 17 child victims who had been sexually assaulted and murdered in Nithari (Noida) in 2007 sent shockwaves, but it made the middle classes mistakenly assume that such gory things happened only to poor people’s children. This February, three Dalit sisters aged 11, nine and six were raped and murdered, their bodies dumped in a well in their native Bhandara, Maharashtra. There was not much noise because ‘they’ were not ‘us’. But when such unchecked sexual violence leaves its safe zones and comes knocking at any random door, people sit up, angry and shell-shocked.

Convenient assumptions such as rape of children is foreign to Hindu/Indian culture or that this perversion is merely a strange import from paedophile pornography is to wilfully forget history. The Age of Consent Bill of 1891 set a minimum age of 12 for girls with regard to cohabitation-a law that was structured because of cases of girl children dying from premature consummation (read rape) on their bridal nights. Nineteenth century religious conservatives raged against this Bill and upheld the marital right of husbands (frequently older men) to have sex with their child brides. They also opposed the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929: Raping young girls through the institution of marriage was constructed as a religious obligation in the Hindu framework.

Eighty-odd years later, India is still caught in the tentacles of the same religion-neither its patriarchy, nor its caste system has been dismantled or ruptured. In a society that voids sexual self-determination through its rigid caste system and compromises the bodily integrity of Dalit/Adivasi/Muslim women through its cultural sanction of rape, the commodification of women by treating them as mere tools to perform the acts of reproductive labour and pleasuring men is a natural progression.

Since dear old monster capitalism lurks around absorbing every evil into its own image, this commodification and consumerism spiral out of control. The obsession over virginity provides the market for 18 Again which sells a gel promising tighter vaginas. Tata Sky‘s ad puts women in the protective custody of their older brothers, seemingly oblivious to but actually celebrating the implicit threat of honour killings. The caste-ridden patriarchal standard is the norm. In this frenzied love-making between capitalism and the caste system, we, as women, are reduced to a mere fragment of our beings. We become less than our bodies. When sexual abuseis allowed to fester within such a culture fixated on sexual purity and the virginity fetish, little girls are the most vulnerable victims.

Even as our search for quick-fixes goes on, we must remember that to eradicate and curtail this crisis in the long run, we must smash the oppressive structure of caste, class and religious patriarchy that regiments our bodies and sanctions our rape. The collective struggle for our liberation will not end with just a piece of legislation.

Meena Kandasamy is a poet and activist.

Read more at:http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/violence-against-girls-in-delhi/1/267857.html


Study confirms abuse of Indian women online: Here’s how to stop it #Censorship


by  Apr 15, 2013, Firstpost

Something unusual happened when Anshika, a Mumbai based media professional retweeted a tweet noting that a respected left-leaning historian had argued that the politics behind book-banning should be exposed.

One of the respondents to her tweet, whose profile picture was the sacred Hindu symbol Om, asked her how she would react if someone wrote about the sex life of her parents without proof. Anshika said she wouldn’t read the book. What followed was an avalanche of tweets containing graphic details of her parents’ supposed sex life.

Sowmya, a blogger with a wide range of interests, was in for a shock when she wrote about national politics. Many of her readers, who were otherwise fond of her views, wondered why she wanted to dabble in political writing. Similarly, when  Sharda, a Mumbai based online activist extended her support to ‘slutwalk’, she was asked if that was her chosen career. Among other names, she was given the title ‘chief slut’.

Social media is widely considered to be a democratic alternate medium against conventional forums, and in some cases has even empowered maginalised communities, but sadly, it mirrors the real world in respect to the treatment of women.

Gender based verbal abuse, harassment, and stereotyping of women is as much a part of the online world as it is in the real world. Even the ways in which women tackle abuse online is not very different to how they deal with abuse offline. And laws have failed victims in both the real and virtual spheres.

Representational Image: Reuters

Representational Image: Reuters

How women are targeted online

“Misogynists will do whatever they can to humiliate women and abuse them. Basically, everything that they can get away with. And I think one can get away with more in the virtual world,” said Meena Kandasamy, Chennai based writer and active blogger.

Not all the abuse targeted at women is direct, underlined a qualitative study of women and verbal online abuse in India, done by the Internet Democracy Project (IDP), a Delhi based NGO which works on online freedom of speech and expression.

The study, based on interviews with seventeen women including the three case studies mentioned above, noted that women reported to have been abused on the sly. (Firstpost has received early access to the report.)

How this works, is that a small online community will gang up against the woman without mentioning her name or addressing any comment directly to her. The targets of sly communication, noted the study, are considerably troubled when the abuser in question is someone more powerful or popular than the woman as the sly communication will frequently also result in an increase in direct abuse.

Opinion is divided, though, on whether merely being a woman is enough to become a target of online harassment or whether it is related to the topics they choose to write/ comment on.

Based on the experiences of transgender people- who have been a part of online spaces as both men and women however, the IDP report noted that the resulting abuse was disproportionately higher when the online avatar was female as opposed to male.

Refusal to chat with a man on public platforms has caused women to receive cuss words and rape threats. “On chat forums it has happened multiple times that if you refuse to talk to them, they will call you a bitch or a whore or other names,” Kalpana, an Internet enthusiast told the surveyors.

And like in the real world, the moral police is very active over the Internet. When women share their personal lives on the Internet, they often encounter a community telling them the do’s and dont’s of life. When Tripti, an active blogger, mentioned in one her blogs that she was keener to relocate to India than her husband, she got several hate mails saying that she was a selfish bitch; that she had no right to dominate her husband and that she was making him relocate when he didn’t want to.

But to say that only gender decides the tone, type and content of abuse would be to implifying a complex issue. “Those who tweet about politics, women’s liberation, persecution of religious and sexual minorities are targeted,” said Kandansamy.

The types of abuse against women

Almost every woman respondent interviewed for the IDR report, said that commenting on Modi or his policies in Gujarat inevitably leads to a barrage of abuse. Mridula, a human rights activist and active blogger, said that among the many hate emails or ‘love letters’ as she calls them, which she received on email groups, for condemning Narendra Modi and the BJP’s politics, included statements such as “Like the women in Gujarat, you should have been raped because you converted”.

One of the preferred ways to target or silence a woman on an online forum is to attack to attack her sexuality. “The real problem is when they do not talk about my thought process, but about my appearance,” the study quoted Nidhi, a rightwing political commentator and active twitter user, as saying.

Trolls also often use images and videos against women online. Many women, who don’t get offended by rape threats and explicit verbal abuse, feel uncomfortable when their pictures are circulated online.

Muskaan, a Kashmiri woman who is vocal about the situation in the valley, discovered that an online forum had obtained her picture and had started writing captions on it like, “Look at her, she’s a Kashmiri. But shameless, partying!” Muskaan is however was not new to online harassment. But when her image started doing the rounds on social media, her reaction, as noted in the IDR report, was “Get my picture off the page, you can write whatever you want to.”

Akin to online communities across the world, the rape threat is also used in the Indian blogosphere as a device to hammer out the message of male superiority. “Background research and testimonies of women bloggers from different parts of the world suggests that irrespective of your popularity or readership size, there will always be harassers who seek a woman out, simply on the basis of her gender,” notes the report.

Remedies to counter gender abuse online

Non- legal strategies used by women to tackle online abuse include ignoring the abuse, moderating comments, blocking abusers, reporting abusers, naming and shaming, self censorship and taking the trolls head-on.

Also social media sites like Twitter and Facebook have mechanisms to report abuse.

On receiving a complaint, Twitter probes and suspends the account if it finds merit in the complaint. But the person can always come back to the micro-blogging site with a new email id. That said however, they will lose the number of ‘followers’ they previously had, and it will also cause them to think twice before targeting the same women.

IDR noted that while Facebook advises complainants to block the abuser and claims to have removed the abusive content, the policy has loopholes.

One of the report’s respondents Namrata runs a page on feminism on Facebook. The content on her page is regularly taken down because of terms such as slut and whore.

To the IDR interviewers, she said, “Facebook has an evident bias towards these [hateful, abusive] pages. When we were blocked recently, I got in touch with a Facebook official in USA. He told us that since we use the world slut, bitch on our pages and there is a programme which automatically searches for words like these, and that’s why they were deleted. But this is a lie because there are so many pages that use the word slut, bitch in a derogatory way and those pages are still there and they are just flagged off as ‘controversial humour.’

However, when harassed or abused online, women prefer not to report the matter to family members or friends. Prashant Mali, a Mumbai based lawyer who specialises in cyber security cases, gave one such scenario. “This woman had a boyfriend in college but she refused to marry him. The man did not let it go. Years later, when she was married, he put their old pictures on Facebook. Out of embarrassment or societal pressure, the woman did not want to discuss the matter with her husband or anyone else.”

Despite this, online support networks have played crucial role when women at the receiving end look out for help. “Support was considered crucial, but was usually drawn from an online community and took the form of public tweets private messages and sometimes even phone calls, when friendships move to offline lives as well,” highlighted IDR report.

While retweeting abuses on twitter emerged as a popular strategy to gather online support and to name and shame the abuser, fewer women recommended taking the troll head on.

Legal remedies are the least sought after in such cases due to various reasons- delayed justice, victimization and anonymity of abuser.

Police advising the victim on how to conduct herself has permeated in the online realm, too. Mumbai police has uploaded four YouTube videos on cyber security.

While two of these videos suggest that women protect themselves, there is no direct message about the IT Act or IPC provisions under which legal action can be taken for online abuse, noted IDR. According to Prasahant Mali, lack of awareness about laws is one the reasons why online abuse continues unabated. “Every time a social media company is questioned, it says that it is governed by international law and treaties. I believe they should allocate funds to spread awareness about facts, such as, what constitutes defamation and harassment online and what is the punishment in Indian law for these offences”, he said.

Yet, advocates of online freedom of speech and expression argue that more stringent laws are not the answer to tackle online abuse of women. Apar Gupta, Delhi based lawyer and cyber law enthusiast said there is a need to bring parity in provisions which apply across media as it will build consistency and predictability which is beneficial to understand crimes. But he doubts if a law meant to govern online speech will be used impartially. “The provisions for criminalising speech which is made specifically online, will be used against dissenters and minorities who enagage in conversation contrary to dominant social values,” he said.

Pranesh Prakash, policy director at Bangalore based Centre for Internet & Society concluded, “Politeness and civil discourse cannot be legislated. We need societal change and more avenues of free speech rather than laws to tackle online harassment of women.”


How Do We Break The Indian Penile Code? #Vaw #Rape #Justice

How Do We Break The Indian Penile Code?
This cultural sanction of rape must stop, the state has to speak
MEENA KANDASAMY, in Outlook Jan 14, 2013

The endless discourses of the elite point fingers everywhere: except at the real cause, which is the cultural sanction of rape in India. Arundhati Roy was brave to label it India’s rape culture. Rapes are not just numbers (24,206 in 2011), but categories: first, there is the not-a-rape marital rape. Then, the easily dismissible she-asked-for-it rape to be applied to urban women. There is patriotic rape: singular nights of horror courtesy the Indian army as in Kunan-Pushpora and Shopian in Kashmir; its second cousin, the long-lasting disciplinary rape to teach a lesson to a population seeking self-determination such as by the ipkf in Eelam, or the afspa-empowered army in Manipur; the minority rape as in the rape of Muslim women in Gujarat, custodial rape as in what happened to Chidambaram Padmini and, above all, the commonplace, everyday caste-Hindu rape of Dalit women, as in the rape of Surekha Bhotmange and her daughter in Khairlanji, and a thousand other instances. Please add the word ‘alleged’ in front of every mention of rape, so that we carry this pretence of political correctness.

  • Talk of crime is followed by talk of punishment. The 23-year-old paramedic’s gangrape in Delhi shakes the nation. Seizing the opportunity, violence drapes itself in the clothes of justice, and from the comfort of its kangaroo court, calls for chemical castration and the imposition of a death penalty. Behind this bloodthirsty demand is the propaganda machinery of big media. Out of a hundred questions that come to mind, here’s the obvious one: I do not believe in a hierarchy of victimhood, but why was such a campaign absent when the rapists were not the easily criminalised working classes, but feudal caste-Hindus, army, paramilitary or police personnel, or the rich and powerful? Does caste status, army uniforms, political clout and money grant immunity from media outrage?
  • Then there is patriotic rape, singular nights of horror courtesy the Indian army as in Shopian in Kashmir.

    These phenomenal protests draw the veils over our passive acceptance when we resign our fates to rapes in the private realm. Bleeding from a night of forced sex, when you go to the hospital, brace yourself for disappointment when doctors flash a congratulatory smile at your husband for proving his manhood yet again. You cannot go to the courts afterwards; there is no provision in the Indian Penal/Penile Code to deal with marital rape. In a judgement delivered this December, Delhi district judge J.R. Aryan said, “IPC does not recognise any such concept of marital rape. If complainant was a legally wedded wife of accused, the sexual intercourse with her by accused would not constitute offence of rape even if it was by force or against her wishes.” Translation from the legalese: your husband owns your body. Postscript: marriage is a licence for a man to get free sex and get away with repeated rape. Let us begin by exposing the sexual violence in our homes, tackling the rapists, child abusers and wife-beaters whom we shelter with our silences.

  • Should we buy into this rhetoric of quick justice and fast-track courts, oblivious to the implications of what awaits us and lacking the wherewithal to initiate reforms in the judiciary? In handling rape cases, several judges have proved themselves to be incarnations of khap panchayat chiefs. Two years ago, in dealing with the case of a gangrape of a minor girl, Justices H.S. Bedi and J.M. Panchal of the Supreme Court of India held that “there can be no presumption that a prosecutrix would always tell the entire story truthfully”. Remember, rape trials are tests of true storytelling. Let us devote time to work on that skill so that when we are eventually raped, we increase our chances at getting justice. The above bench also shamelessly said, “In rape cases, the testimony of the victim cannot be considered to be the gospel truth.” This inherent suspicion by the judiciary is another act of silencing. The system tells you, speaking out will be a disgrace since you have to be disbelieved. Understand my contempt, it is equal and directly proportional to the Supreme Court’s misogyny and mistrust of women.
  • Beyond the false pride vested in virginity and the glorified burden of chastity, Indian women suffer because they are seen as sexual objects instead of sexual beings. Just as the Indian male imagination cannot include the possibility of a woman wanting to have sex, he cannot imagine a woman wanting to refuse sex. Their consent is taken for granted, this gives a free run to rape culture. In its most bloody avatar, this denial of a woman’s sexuality can lead to mindless violence and an indefinite moratorium on intercaste marriages. Last month, the Ramadoss-led PMK burnt 300 homes in three Dalit colonies in Dharmapuri, Tamil Nadu, to warn caste-Hindu women off from marrying Dalit men. Love, he claims, is an immature act. The scope of anti-caste rebellion arising out of women’s sexual autonomy singes this disturbed man.
  • We fight for ourselves and spontaneously find our strength. Sorry to disappoint you, Sushma Swaraj. We refuse to be frozen into frigidity merely to fit into your depiction of rape survivors as zinda laash, the living corpses. We are not the walking dead; every day comes alive because of us. We even own the nights. Patriarchal pride dies between our thighs. Your education in feminism will begin, Ms Swaraj, when you learn to respect us. In your spare time, you can start by questioning Hindutva hyper-masculinity and how it resulted in the rapes of Muslim women in Gujarat.

This country gave a gallantry medal to SP Ankit Garg, who ordered the torture of adivasi schoolteacher Soni Sori.

In a city comatose with its own delusions of power, this was a disaster waiting to happen. The Delhi-NCR police have legitimised rapes in the region earlier too, speaking their mind to hidden cameras, saying “she asked for it” and “it is consensual most of the time”. They blamed young women for not staying within their boundaries, for wearing short skirts, for not wearing stoles, for drinking vodka, for enticing men. A cop declared that no rape would happen without the girl’s provocation. No serious action has been taken against any of these cops. It’s difficult to expect otherwise, in a country that gave a gallantry medal to SP Ankit Garg, who ordered the torture of Soni Sori, the adivasi schoolteacher from Dantewada. She was undressed, given electric shocks, stones were shoved in her vagina and rectum. I will save other stories of custodial rapes for another day.

  • This is how the state ushers in a semblance of calm in Delhi: using expired teargas, lathicharging protesters, wielding water cannons in the December cold. Unleashing police terror is a surprise tactic with a long-term payoff, it is violence meant to shut the door on further peaceful protests. Justifying this brutality, the Delhi police commissioner spoke of “collateral damage” and the Union home minister compared protesters to Maoists. When such language is routinely employed by the state—not in reference to rebellion in the Red Corridor, but to pretty placards in the capital city—it signifies an all-out offensive on the people. When the state finds an escape hatch by homogenising all protest and labelling everyone a Maoist, it creates a sense of helplessness and isolation among the young people. Since the ruling order will not meet protesters on the roads or in Raisina Hill, are they suggesting that all of us schedule a rendezvous in Bastar? Assuming politics is an antidote to violence, the protesters at India Gate merely had a defanged demand: “Talk to us.” What they heard was the silence of the political elites and the deathly drone of the state machinery that sought to quell their protests.

The middle classes who got a taste of police violence will now, hopefully, wake up to the reality of police, paramilitary and army excesses in Kashmir, the Northeast and in adivasi villages in central India. Out of their slumbering state, they will perhaps realise the sham of the present democracy and the zero accountability that elected representatives enjoy. The prime minister robotically reading out empty words and the strategic absence of legitimate mediation from the state will not quell protests. On the contrary, it will have the unintended consequence of detonating similar struggles everywhere. The state will have to speak then. If it doesn’t, and the government succeeds in driving all anger and dissent underground, it will have to take the blame for creating guerrillas en masse. Theek hai?

#India- Here is why section #66A does not ‘protect’ women #FOE #Censorship

by  , FIRSTPOST Dec 12, 2012

One of the arguments Union Minister for Communication, Information and Technology, Kapil Sibal, often gives to justify Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act is that it is an essential tool in fighting the online harassment of women. “Many kinds of threats can be given on the Internet which cannot be given on a normal communication network. Therefore, the nature of the law has to be different,” reiterated the minister in an interview to NDTV in November 2012.

Online harassment is indeed a serious problem for women. In April this year, for instance, Chennai based writer and activist Meena Kandasamy found herself at the receiving end of sexually charged verbal abuse and threats of violence in response to a 15 April tweet, which said: “Was at the Osmania university beef eating festival. Awesome experience in spite of violence by ABVP.”

In reactionary tweets, totaling more than a hundred, she was called a variety of names including “bitch,” “whore,” and “terrorist.”

“Bloody bitch, u shud be gang raped and telecasted live. That will be awesome experience (sic),” was an example of one such tweet by @sidhh 108.

In October, singer Chinmayi Sripada lodged a complaint with Chennai police that she was getting casteist and vulgar comments about both her and her mother from six twitter handles. “Most of my tweets were misquoted to give a feeling that I am against Tamil, Tamil Tweeters and bloggers and also against Sri Lankan Tamils. Some even started tagging me on Facebook,” Sripada told The Hindu.

This threatening online environment is an extension of real life in terms of the attitude towards the fairer sex. “Just like in real life, women are expected not to comment online about political issues or anything which needs application of the brain. Signs of struggle of power between two genders are very much visible online,” says Vidyut Kale, a Mumbai based blogger, who has received cuss words, rape and death threats. “By the way, education has got nothing to with it,” she adds.


While the Internet can be a hostile place for both sexes, women face additional sexist abuse in a way that men do not. “Trans people who have written both as male and female bloggers, for example, have reported a sharp difference between the two in terms of the abuse they received, and the way in which attacks became more personalised and gender-based after blogging as a woman. There certainly is a trend here,” says Dr Anja Kovacs of the Internet Democracy Project, a Delhi based initiative for online freedom of speech which is conducting a study on online harassment.

However, Sibal is wrong to cite online abuse of women as a justification for section 66A of IT Act, which advocates of online freedom of speech claim is a classic case of the cure being worse than the disease.

Moreover, when section 66A was inserted into the IT Act in 2008, the purpose was not to safeguard women from abuse or stalking. According to Kiran Karnik, former president of NASSCOM and member of the expert committee which suggested changes in the IT Act, the amendments proposed by the expert committee were benign, but the Parliamentary standing committee made the law much tighter in its over-enthusiasm.

“Things were added on the pretext of taking care of spam, defamation and that gave huge power to security agencies,” Karnik told NDTV.

Thus, Kapil Sibal’s ‘protect our women’ argument is a post facto and expedient rationale for the amendments.

The argument is also not based on any kind of supporting evidence, and for one simple reason: the government does not maintain any data on the number of complaints filed by women under section 66A.

Except for the case of Chinmayi Sripada — where the police took action against two men allegedly harassing her — there are few other known cases where a woman has taken recourse to section 66A to fight cyber abuse.

In stark contrast, there are many cases illustrating the misuse of 66A: the arrests of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi for lampooning national symbols on his website and Professor of Jatavpur university for mocking Mamata Banerjee on Facebook, the detention of a Puducherry businessman for tweeting that Karti Chidambaram has amassed more wealth than Robert Vadra, and the infamous Palghar case where two girls were arrested under section 66A because they believed that the death of Bal Thackeray did not call for a city-wide bandh.

“After the Shaheen Dada and Rinu Srinivasan case, we know it [66A] is not protecting women, it is jailing some of them who speak. I doubt if anyone who is flaunting Hindutva and threatening gang rape and butchering or calling for a Hindu style fatwa on a writer is going to be going to jail anytime soon,” says Kandasamy.

Therefore, even if we take into consideration Sibal’s argument that Internet is a different beast which wields much more power than traditional media and hence we need a separate law, 66A is so vaguely worded that it can be used at will — not to protect women but to punish those who speak out. If the intent is to crack down on online abuse, then the law has to be sharply and
narrowly defined, and in a way that it does not infringe on the freedom of speech.

Besides, there are many provisions in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which deal with similar offences against women, points out Delhi based lawyer Apar Gupta. “IPC Section 509 deals with words, gestures or acts intended to insult the modesty of a woman. This can be invoked in cases of online abuse of women as well.”

Other parts of penal law may apply as well, including section 499 which deals with defamation, sections 503 which deals with criminal intimidation and and 507 which addresses criminal intimidation via an anonymous communication.

“I think the only space that has any semblance of the free media is the Internet. Section 66A is the only way they are going to go about silencing people who speak their mind. This protecting woman is such a nice facade,” concludes Kandasamy.

Mangled Lore- Would our culture saviours revive the attire of the Chola bronzes? #VAW #Moralpolicing



Marriage took me to Mangalore. Living in Attavar, I saw the city as a sister/lover: a feisty woman caught in the grip of a violent, disapproving man, she’d be rid of him if she found her strength. So, when I first heard of the recent assault by Hindutva vigilantes at a resort in Padil, I was relieved that Mangalore’s everyday fate was finally gaining national attention.

Mangalore’s story has its twisted echo in Subash Padil, a right-wing criminal of the Hindu Jagaran Vedike with an astounding record: participation in the pub attacks in 2009 to real estate-related violence to masterminding the July 28 assault at Morning Mist Home Stay.

Mangalore’s story also shows how Hindutva seeks to regulate social life; how dress becomes a component of identity construction to define the Other. RSS leader Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat had wanted the veils of Muslim women to be lifted so he could glimpse what they had to offer. Even ex-women and child development minister C.C. Patil, with a weakness for pornography, had exhorted women to dress decently. Here, Muslim women are blamed for covering up, Christian women are blamed for showing skin and Hindu women are blamed for aping them.

Capitalising on conservative tendencies, Hindutva has managed to turn everyone in the city into an informer. Bus conductors send SMSes to reactionary outfits when they see an inter-religious couple socialise. Mobilisation, like justice, is instant. Recruiting its rank and file from the backward castes like Billavas and Mogaweeras, Hindutva has indoctrinated them and created vigilantes. So, they break into private property to deliver justice. Under the BJP government, they have immunity from prosecution. To keep its loyalty intact, the police arrive late, chat with the assailants and question the “morality/necessity” of partying. Cases are filed against TV journalist Naveen Soorinje under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, though without his footage, this incident would have been buried in the hundreds of cultural policing episodes that hold Mangalore ransom.

Today, a friend tells me that in response to spontaneous protests by students, Kadri police station inspector Venkatesh Prasanna—infamous for inflicting violence on inter-religious couples—has vowed to make life miserable for students of St Agnes College.

The reaction of the state machinery is as much revealing as it is outrageous: Padil, July 28, is not viewed by the state machinery as sustained, majoritarian, hypermasculine Hindu terror in a multi-religious society; or as molestation, sexual harassment or non-penetrative rape enacted on the female body in order to punish and discipline it; or as a total sellout of the police to fanatical forces. Things that are normal almost everywhere else in the world—young people wearing stylish clothes, sitting next to each other in a bus, having a drink, partying—are identified as problem elements by Hindutva hooliganism that legitimises itself under the guise of protecting ‘Indian culture’.

This Indian culture is the most radical idea in recent years to have simultaneously entered the minds of Hindu fundamentalist groups and self-proclaimed feminists like National Commission for Women chairperson Mamta Sharma. In keeping with the patriotic spirit of the season, I call upon these outfits to revive the said culture by promoting the elegant style of clothing showcased by Chola bronzes. Desi Designer Wear. Since it’s always summer in south India, there’s no need to bother about a Fall/Winter collection.

Moving from apparel to food, I want to remind the right-wing outfits that Sangam-era warriors enjoyed their booze after a delicious meal cooked to such perfection that distinguishing meat from rice was like picking silt from river sand. That’s a couple of thousand years ago, but country booze can be brought back into fashion. In Tamil, there is documented evidence of toddy from the root of the fig tree, toddy from the bark of the usilam (sirisa) tree, toddy from the flowers of iluppai (mahua) tree, palmyra toddy, peepal toddy, coconut toddy and even paddy toddy. We Tamils were known to dig our drinks in its highly fermented form, so sour you would make a face just sipping it. My personal pick would be the mattu, distilled liquor from the sugarcane, a recommended aphrodisiac. Or, it would be the undaattu, an eponymous spirit that required you to drink, then dance. Ideally, I would buy it from a patuvi, a lady who sells liquor. Sorry for making references to my mother-tongue alone, but since you have Indian culture in mind, don’t forget that there are at least a thousand different languages here and 10 times as many drinks. Each of them is as Indian as the other. Dear Protector of Indian Culture, doesn’t this bubbly idea intoxicate you? Bring it back, bring it on, we’ll get drunk on this delight. Let us hit the dance floor, now.


Immediate Release- NWMI Condemns violent abuse of Meena Kandasamy on Twitter


The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI), strongly condemns the violent and sexist abuse unleashed on poet, writer, activist and translator Meena Kandasamy, presumably in response to her posts on Twitter about the beef-eating festival at Osmania University, Hyderabad, on 15 April 2012 and the ensuing clashes between groups of students.

After her comments on Twitter, she was threatened with various forms of violence, including gang rape and acid attacks. Some placed a price on her head. Others threatened her freedom of speech, saying that she would not be allowed to speak anywhere, and called for her prosecution for allegedly outraging religious feelings under Section 295-A of the Indian Penal Code. In over a hundred tweets, she was called a whore, characterless, a terrorist and a bitch. One of the most objectionable comments was that she should be raped on live television, this barbaric idea was put out by one Siddharth Shankar who followed it up with more vicious filth.

Meena Kandasamy has become the target of a vicious abuse campaign on twitter and other sites for her support to the festival during which she and other students had to be escorted to a safe place under police escort. Protestors even stoned the van they were travelling in. It is highly condemnable that her support of a food festival should lead to demands for her prosecution and a bounty on her head.

As a professional network of women journalists, the NWMI is firmly committed to freedom of expression and, indeed, supports ongoing efforts to ensure that the Internet remains a free space and is not subjected to censorship. However, freedom comes with responsibility and all those who
value free speech must, at the very least, censure hate speech.

Everyone in a democracy has a right to hold and express their opinions on current events and issues. Similarly, everyone has a right to disagree with and argue against the opinions of others. Debate – not abuse and threats – is the democratic means to deal with conflicting views on contentious topics: in this case, the right to choose what to eat and not eat.

It appears that Meena Kandasamy has been singled out for abuse at least partly because she is a bold and outspoken woman who expresses her opinions freely in the public sphere. The fact that she is a Dalit, especially one whose work focuses on caste annihilation, linguistic identity and feminism, clearly makes her even more of a target.

We call upon all those who value freedom of expression to join us in condemning the online attack on Meena Kandasamy and to explore ways to ensure that everyone has a right to express their opinion – on the Internet as well as elsewhere – without being subjected to hateful abuse.

The Network of Women in Media, India

I salute Meena Kandasamy, each and every domestic Violence survivor needs to read this

  Meena  is my Facebook friend, and I salute her, as it takes extraordinary courage to come out in the open about a  violent and an abusive marriage, I hope this step by Meena ,will give the courage to many such women trapped in such abusive relationships to break their shackles    

‘With sad-woman eyes and soulful smiles’
Meena Kandasamy

In that strange coastal town-city where it rains every morning, I partake of pain as if it is prayer. Married to a violent man who treats me with nothing but distrust and suspicion, my skin has seen enough hurt to tell its own story.In the early days, his words win me back: I don’t have anything if I don’t have you. In this honeymoon period, every quarrel follows a predictable pattern: we make up, we make love, we move on. It becomes a bargain, a barter system. For the sake of survival, I surrender my space.

Two months into the marriage, he cajoles me into parting with my passwords. Soon he answers my e-mails with the same liberty with which he used to select my clothes. Why do you need my password, I ask. You have mine, he says. But I did not ask you for it, I say. You don’t love me enough, he says. Possess me so that I can possess you for possessing me: the thoughts of a possessed, possessive man who has made possession into his single obsession. There can be no secrets when love has become a cruel slave-era overseer. He proposes the idea of a common  e-mail address one week, it is enforced the next. He makes personal boundaries disappear. I am isolated from all my friends and family. As an act of purification, 25,000 e-mail messages are erased on New Year’s Eve. I become the woman with no history.

Soon, in my loveless marriage, sex begins to replicate the model of a market economy: he demands, I supply. Never mind that my response does not matter, never mind that I bleed every single time, never mind that he derives his pleasure from my pain. With a scattered heart and in no mood for seduction, the woman in me carries on a conversation with the ceiling, she confides in the curtains. Faced with so much damage, she seeks pleasure in the flaming forces of nature: harsh sunlight, sudden showers. Secretly, she refuses to be tamed.

The first time he hits me, I remember I hit him back. Retaliation can work between well-matched rivals, but experience teaches me that a woman who weighs less than a hundred pounds should think of other options. It also teaches me other things. I learn that anything can become an instrument of punishment: twisted computer power-cords, leather belts, his bare hands that I once held with all the love in the world. His words sharpen his strikes. If I deliver a quick blow, your brains will spill out, he says. His every slap shatters me. Once, when he strangulates me, I imbibe the silence of a choked throat.

And when I tell him that I want to walk out of the marriage, he wishes me success in a career as a prostitute, asks me to specialise in fellating, advices me to use condoms. I shrink and shrivel and shout back and shed a steady stream of tears. He smiles at his success. He wants me to feel like a fallen woman. He always inhabits the moral high ground and resorts to extreme generalisations: literary festivals are brothels, women writers are whores, my poetry is pornography. His communist credentials crumble. He faults me for being a feminist. I am treated with the hatred that should be reserved for class enemies.

As fear seeps into my body, sex becomes unto submission. in this role of a wife, I remember nothing except the relief of being let go, being let off after being used up… I am no longer myself… I think death will put an end to this.

As a bored housewife, I colour-code the domestic violence: fresh red welts on my skin, the black hue of blood clots, the fading violet of healed bruises. It appears that there is no escape from this unending cycle of abuse, remorse-filled apology and more abuse. One day, when I am whipped with a belt and cannot take it anymore, I threaten him with police action. He retorts that no man in uniform will respect me after reading a line of my verse. He challenges me to go to anyone anywhere. I have no friends in that small world—only his colleagues who think the world of him and his students who worship the earth on which he walks. I do not know whom to trust, even our neighbours could hand me back to him. In the middle of the night, I want to rush to a nearby convent, seek shelter. Would I be understood? Would it work out? How far can I run away in a city that does not speak my tongue, a city where young women in bars are beaten up?

I tell him that I cannot live with him any longer. I tell him that I have lost count of the last chances I have given him.

The next morning I wake up and see that he has singed his flesh with a red-hot spoon. A twisted mind and its twisted love. He is willing to explain himself: I inflict this punishment on myself because I realise my guilt. I did this because I love you. In other words: you made me hurt you, you made me hurt myself. The subtext: please take the blame, please take the beatings too. I am held hostage emotionally. I crave for a freedom that will just let me be me, I flounder to find the words to help me speak my story. I live in a house of slamming doors and broken dreams. I am no longer myself, I am convinced that I am starring in somebody’s tragic film. I look forward to dying, I think death will put an end to this.

As fear seeps into my body, sex becomes submission, and in this role-play of being a wife, I remember nothing except the relief of being let go, being let off after being used up. In this marriage of martyrdom, kisses disappear.

We sleep in separate rooms. Every night, my heart sings a sad song. I long for tenderness. I circle around my sorrow as if it were a village goddess, I feed it my bruised flesh. Come and get me,
I cry. No one hears me, it is just me screaming in my head. I manage to pull myself together because I have vowed never to break.

I grow distant, we grow apart.

I later uncover his double life: he has been previously married, a fact concealed even by his own family members. He has not yet divorced his first wife. When I confront him, he attempts to explain everything scientifically and then comes right back at me. There is more name-calling, hair-pulling, badmouthing, blackmailing. He begins to beat me. He brands me a bitch. I will skin you alive, he says, and then call your father to come and get you. I am numb, too traumatised to react. That night, I am thrown out, like trash. I leave home with a handbag and a bad-girl tag. I plead with the paramilitary personnel at the airport to let me sleep there, they ask me a thousand questions but allow me to stay. One of them buys me dinner. I fly back to Chennai the next morning. I have no words to tell my parents. They ask no questions. My mother hugs me with the air of a woman who will never let me go. My sister is angry why I ever left her.

Weeks later, I consult lawyers. They tell me that my marriage is not valid, that seeking a divorce is a pointless exercise. As an act of mercy, even the law has set me free. When I press for his punishment, the police speak of jurisdictional issues. You lived elsewhere, they say. Lady justice does not serve displaced women.

It is more than a month since I moved back to my parents’ place. I talk to my well-wishers. I wear my sister’s clothes. I weep, alone, at night. I look back at those four months of my life and realise that what I had lived through was not “my life” at all, but something that someone else had charted for me. Wedded to a wife-beater, I never believed that I would live to tell my tale. I console myself that now I have first-hand experience of brutality: a story of struggle and survival that I can share on unfair days. Such empty consolations soothe violated bodies. I join a lucky league of battered women who find comfort in the safe zone of family, solace in the warmth of friends and flirtatious strangers who nurse my wounds with words. Can I overcome this nightmare of a marriage? I don’t have straight answers. I have learnt my lessons. I know that I am single and safe now. With sad-woman eyes and soulful smiles, I strive to find the courage to face this world. Perhaps, along the way, poetry will help me leave the pain behind.

( The first person account appears in magazine ‘ outlook ”


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December 2022
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