Abuse that women face on the Internet superhighway is targeted at their gender #study #Vaw

Highway harassment

The abuse that women face on the Internet superhighway is targeted at their gender, regardless of the subject of what they post, finds a new study

March 12, 2013
Asha Mahadevan, Midday, March 12, 2013

Giving opinions on the Internet is a lot like walking on the street of the real world. Both make women targets of sexual harassment.” That is what 17 women active on the Internet said to researchers of the Internet Democracy Project (IDP) who conducted a study on the kind of abuse women face online.

Sexual abuse

The researchers revealed their findings at a seminar in RD National College in Bandra recently. The researchers found that a woman need not make a political statement – such as in the Palghar case – to get sexually abusive comments. Even if a woman makes innocuous statements or simply uploads a well-dressed photograph of hers on her public profile on Facebook, Twitter, or a blog, she is very likely to get hundreds of comments that call her a sl*t, b***h and w***e.

“It is an attempt to silence the expression of women in the Internet space,” said Dr Anja Kovacks, project director, IDP. New Delhi-based Anja (pronounced Anya) and her team of four spoke to women active online – via blogs and social networking sites – and the kind of harassment they face from trolls. Anja said they started this project because they realised there has been no proper study conducted on the sexual harassment women face online in India even though there have been such studies conducted abroad. Explaining the reasons behind the sample size of 17 and the scope of the project, Anja said, “In qualitative research, it is common to have small samples. Qualitative research has limitations. The study was very much of an exploration. We have no sense of how many shut up or just disappear (after receiving abuse) but we only know it happens.” Shehla Rashid Shora, project officer, IDP, called the study, “an attempt to start a conversation and it’s never been done in India before.”

The 17 women who were a part of this qualitative research narrated harrowing tales of the kind of harassment they have faced. Explained Shobha SV, a member of the team, “They can range from insults to physical attributes of the woman writer, threats of sexual violence (‘you should be gangraped in public and it should be telecast live’ was one of the threats received) to creating parallel blogs that mock everything in the writer’s actual blog and making and circulating hate pages.” One participant even narrated how one of her photographs was taken off her blog and reposted on a public forum after the abuser painted a moustache on it and defaced it.

The sad fact is that this sex abuse was in response to some of the most innocuous posts these women made – about meeting an ex-boyfriend in the park or relocation from one country to another, or the frustration that their children caused sometimes. It’s worse if they go off topic – if a mommy blogger writes about caste issues or politics, she is the recipient of the choicest abuse. Any woman who talks about domestic violence or marital rape will find herself being called all sorts of uncomplimentary names. “Gender based harassers target the most visible part of gender – the body. There is a perception among harassers that talking about sex will get to women,” said Richa Kaul Padhpe, one of the researchers. “So harassers use sexuality threats to silence women and restrict their speech.”

Added Anja, “Studies have found that women can’t just hang around the street the way guys do. A woman on a road has to have a purpose to occupy that space. Similarly, women in our study referred to the Internet as a street, where you can’t just hang around.” The fears of the women are the same whether they are online or offline, she explained. “Many women don’t tell their families because they get or fear to get the same response as to harassment on the streets – why do you go there? What’s the point in doing this? Why don’t you stop going there?” This then results in self-censorship, said Anja. “You end up positioning yourself in a certain way, you don’t talk about certain topics, or don’t phrase things in a certain way.” Women’s speech is thus restricted.

Priyanka Chaturvedi, General Secretary North West District Youth Congress, has invited abuse with her tweets. The young mother of two has faced gender specific abuse. Says Priyanka, “I have faced so much flak for tweeting, even more so because I come from a political background. If I tweet or write something against Narendra Modi, I come in for a huge backlash from his supporters. Recently, a lie had been spread against me in cyber space saying that I was one of four persons who had gone to meet Sonia Gandhi with reference to the Delhi gang rape case. I got comments like: ‘you should be gang raped’ and ‘your behaviour is worse than that of a sl.t’.”

Priyanka says she has also received comments about flirting with men on Twitter. A change of profile picture leads to responses like: ‘you have a pretty picture but a low IQ’. “The abuse is very personal and can get very nasty.” Priyanka responds by going offline for a couple of days, blocking the abuse, using filters or ignoring it. People have asked me to file a cyber complaint at times. However, there is no way that I am deleting my account, it would mean victory for the abusers.”

Said Anja, “Women use a lot of interesting and wide-ranging strategies to deal with online abuse. Our study revealed that going to the police or taking legal recourse is only the very last measure.” There is an overwhelming reluctance to use the law as many of these women have found that the police are not supportive. When the researchers met police officials on the issue, they were told that women can prevent the abuse by not putting up their pictures online. “The whole discourse was about what women should not do rather than saying ‘don’t abuse,’” recalled Shobha. Added Richa, “The law tends to individualise the crime instead of looking at it as a systemic problem.”

Many women have tried to tackle the problem by hiding their identity. Anonymity gives women the chance to voice their opinion and make friends from different castes, class, religion and political affiliations. The researchers found this to be true especially of sex workers in Delhi. But with the right tools, it is not difficult for any abuser to find a blogger, tweeter or FB writer’s true identity, especially since women tend to use the same anonymous handle across platforms. The abusers on the other hand, are more capable of hiding their identity.

The significance of anonymity is just one of the many questions that this study has raised for Anja and her team. Said Shehla, “The importance of this study is underscored by the fact that it throws up more questions and paradoxes than answers. Anonymity (of the abuser) for example was flagged as a concern by many women. But the same women also said that anonymity gives them agency as well. The question around the law is an inconvenient one – should there be a hate speech law that is inclusive of gender (the current one isn’t)? But the women who themselves have an active internet presence are strongly against censorship.”

The group had come up with a plan to create a hashtag #MisogynyAlert to organise the recipients of such abuse and drive away misogynistic trolls. “But after a few days, two bloggers criticised the way we used the hashtag. And some of the criticism was important – one feminist said that our responses were not compliant with feminist principles. This throws up more questions – while gentle reprimand may work with some people, there are trolls with whom it won’t work. In such a case, do women essentially need to ‘gang up’ to respond to such abuse?”

Anja says, “I hope to take the findings to the government and hope that it will have a positive effect on their decisions regarding Acts such as the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act and those that define obscenity and hate speech.”

Tweet: A 140-character text-based message that a user puts up on the microblogging site, Twitter.
Twitter handle: The online name of a user on the site – it can be their real name or a fake one.
Blogs: Online journals wherein users write articles called blogposts on any subject. The writer is called a blogger.
Mommy blogger: A writer who mainly writes about parenting issues for a niche audience. Daddy blogger trend is also picking up.
Troll: A user who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community to deliberately provoke the writer or to divert the track of the discussion.
Hashtag: A word or phrase prefixed with the symbol # . It is included in the message and is connected to the general topic of the message, so it is easier to search for all messages on one topic.



#India – Police says’ stay indoors to avoid sexual harassment on streets” #WTFnews #morapolicing #Vaw

Dreaded Bombay Police Act strikes again

Stay indoors to avoid ched-chad

Overzealous Thane cops fine unmarried couples and single women found on the streets after sunset as part of their drive to protect ladies

Arita Sarkar, Mumbai Mirror

Posted On Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 04:37:34 AM

Inspector Vasant Dhoble, all set to be transferred to Thane, will soon find himself in good company: Thane police has launched a special anti-harassment squad, Ched-chad Virodhi Pathak that books young, unmarried couples out on the streets after dark under section 110 of the Bombay Police Act for “causing public nuisance.”

Young couple are fined Rs 1200 and given a humiliating lecture on morality before they are let go. If they don’t have the money, their parents are summoned and asked to pay up.

Since the drive was started on December 16, 64 people have been booked under the section 110 of the Bombay Police Act and fined. Anamika Sengupta, head of recruitment at an IT company, who was stopped by the police when she was out for a walk with a male companion at 8 pm, said she was told to “stay indoors.”

Anamika has since complained about the patrolling squad’s behaviour to the senior inspector of Manpada police station Ramakant Mahire. The drive was launched following the December 3 murder of Santosh Vichivora, 19, at Dombivili, who had intervened when five teenagers made lewd remarks aimed at his neighbour who was returning home from work. The way the police see it had Santosh and his lady friend not been walking together in public, the incident would not have happened.

The 15-member plainclothes squad now roams the streets of Thane looking out for unmarried couples and single women in ‘isolated spots.’ The ‘suspicious elements’ are given an earful, often asked to go home, and fined. The police have also roped in authorities from the four colleges and eight high schools in their jurisdiction.

Principals of these co-education institutions have been told to instruct their students to wear their identity cards at all times. The police said even students who are alone without their IDs are taken to the station and fined.

“Nobody should sit in corners and isolated places unnecessarily even in day time,” said Manpada senior inspector Mahire. “Ever since we started this drive, we have ensured that nobody is out on the streets after 10 pm and this has brought down crime.” He is convinced that the drive has helped curb crime against women.

According to him, Vichivora’s murder was not a result of sexual harassment. He said had the girl and boy not been walking together so late in the night (the incident happened around 10 pm) the incident would not have happened. Thane police commissioner KP Raghuvanshi who has not accounted for the overzealousness of his cops on the ground said that the intent behind the drive was not to harass young couples or single women.

“It is meant to target road Romeos and molesters. Our plainclothes squad is supposed to identify and book them.” In fact, the Thane police have also issued a well-intentioned and useful pamphlet with helpline numbers.



Maharashtra tribal Christians face Boycott

John Dayal

PALGHAR, Maharashtra,  Jan 12, 2013 — For over 10 days, a torn Bible and a damaged harmonium have been lying in a makeshift prayer hall which villagers now take turn to guard—just the way the attackers had left them on December 30 (2012). Although the anger has subsided, the tribals are unable to muster courage to resume their Sunday prayer service.

The tribal Christians of Tamsai village in Palghar claim that the makeshift prayer hall was attacked after the gram panchayat threatened them to stop the prayer service or else “face the consequences”. They allege that the villagers who attacked them were “angered” by the spread of Christianity.

While the Palghar Superintendent of Police claimed it was an internal fight among villagers without any communal motive, the sarpanch of the gram panchayat denied having made any threat of a social boycott.

According to the victims, the attackers were from their own village and from neighbouring villages. “Most of them are known to us,” claimed Raju Bhoir. The victims said they were carrying out their regular Sunday worship service when a few village men came and stopped the prayers. The tribals, who insist that they have not converted into Christianity but merely follow the path of Jesus, have been carrying out prayer services for the last three years.

Bharat Patil, 22, who has “dedicated” himself to religious work says that the panchayat has unanimously decided to boycott those who accepted Christianity. “They have decided to deny us water and firewood if we stay converted. We have been trying to convince them that our documents still remain the same. We have just chosen a newer way of life without undergoing any sort of conversion,” he said.

Superintendent of Police (Palghar) Anil Kumbhare said: “The village has seen several outsiders regularly visiting them and preaching Christianity. On that day, too, some people had come and it led to an internal fight.”

According to the tribal Christians, the gram panchayat has denied them access to village wells and firewood. “We were thrashed. They walked in while the prayer was on. Many women were also attacked,” said Sainath Amboravate whose family embraced Christianity a decade ago and who now works as a preacher.

Disruption caused during the Sunday morning prayers on December 30 has shaken the villagers in Tamsai and Pochade.

“When those men came, we called the local police immediately. Police arrived, too. But no one helped. We are afraid that these people might strike back,” said Patil.

“Around 300 people come to our village every Sunday for prayers. We had just gathered when these men barged in and began damaging the musical instruments. A copy of the Bible was torn. About 25 of the worshippers sustained injuries and had to be treated,” Patil claimed. “We have given the names of those who attacked us but the police have not taken any action,” said Bhoir.

“It was an internal fight and was resolved on the same day. We have recorded their statements,” said Senior Police Inspector of Manor Vijay Pawar.

Village sarpanch Kailash Andher claimed that it was a “petty quarrel” among a few villagers and was not communal in nature. “It was a small fracas and was resolved immediately,” he said.

A group of villagers on Thursday met former president of the Indian Christian Voice Dr. Abraham Mathai. “The tribal Christians from Mokhada, Wada, Vikramgarg and now Palghar have continued to suffer from a spate of attacks perpetrated by extremist elements because of the communal bias of the police. It is most shocking when these poor tribals are attacked in the presence of the police,” Mathai said.


Police drop activist from programme after Sena threat

ALOK DESHPANDE, The Hindu, Jan 7, Mumbai

The police authorities in Maharashtra continue to surrender to the diktat of Shiv Sena, despite facing flak from all quarters over the arrest of two girls in Palghar a month ago.

This time, the police authorities have dropped a speaker from their programme, after the Sena warned her against entering Chiplun, a town in Ratnagiri district, where the event is scheduled to be held.

In the backdrop of the gang rape in Delhi, the Chiplun police authorities have arranged a special programme for girls and women in the city on January 8. The authorities had invited Pushpa Bhave, a senior social worker, author and prominent activist working on gender issues and women’s rights in Maharashtra.

Chiplun will also host the annual Marathi literary meet from January 11 and the podium has been named after Sena chief Bal Thackeray. On Saturday, Ms. Bhave criticised the organisers of the festival for naming the podium after Thackeray, who, she said had ‘insulted’ many Marathi authors in the past and was not a writer.

“My point was very simple. I opposed the podium being named after him. He has insulted many great Marathi authors in extremely low level language. The podium is always named after someone who has done great service to literature, which he hasn’t done. Hence I opposed it,” Ms. Bhave told The Hindu.

Irked by her opposition, the local unit of Sena declared that the party would not allow her inside Chiplun city. The local leaders took a mob of around 200 activists to the police station and pressured them to cancel her part in the programme.

“Instead of letting the issue heat up, we cancelled her part,” Uttam Jagdale, police inspector at the Chiplun station told The Hindu over telephone. “We try to maintain good relations with all political parties. We did what we thought was best,” he said.

The Sena leaders praised the authorities for removing her from the programme. “Even they knew that if she had come here, the situation could have worsened,” said Bala Kadam, the Chiplun city unit chief of the Sena. “Nobody should speak against Balasaheb. That lady [Ms. Bhave] was doing this for publicity, but we won’t let her do it at the expense of our late leader,” said Mr. Kadam.

Ms. Bhave expressed no surprise at the police action. “This is what we have been seeing all these years… Sena does not believe in discussion and criticism in democracy,” she said.


#India-Never said Gujarat safer than Maharashtra: Father of girl arrested for Facebook post

Edited by Amit Chaturvedi | Updated: December 11, 2012 , NDTV

Never said Gujarat safer than Maharashtra: Father of girl arrested for Facebook post

NagpurFarukh Dhada, father of Shaheen Dhada, the girl who was arrested last month by over her Facebook post, has spoken out against what he says is Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi‘s misrepresentation of their views on comparative law and order in Gujarat and Maharashtra.

Mr Dhada says he and his family never said Gujarat was better off than Maharashtra and that the family felt perfectly safe in Palghar area of Thane where they’d lived for decades.

“We never said any such thing. We have been living in Palghar for the past 27 years and we feel safe here. We went to Gujarat for a few days to see my ailing mother-in-law. Now we are back in Palghar and there is absolutely no problem. What Mr Modi said is his personal view,” he said today.

insecure” in BJP-ruled Gujarat, Mr Modi had over the weekend quoted the example of Shaheen Dhada in an election rally saying, “She prefers to stay in Gujarat over Maharashtra. You are trying to defame the state, but girls like Shaheen have proved you wrong.”

Last month month, Shaheen Dhada and her friend Rinu Shrinivasan were arrested for questioning on Facebook the shutdown of Mumbai for the funeral of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray. The women were released on bail after a few hours; they had been charged with spreading hatred under the contentious section 66(A) of the IT Act. The case against them was dropped later.

The massive public backlash against the arrests in Maharashtra forced a new scrutiny of Internet laws with the state government saying it has issued new guidelines to control the misuse of Section 66(A), which is widely criticised for its vague wording.


Mumbai, Cops detain boy for FB post against Raj Thackeray #censorship

Boy questioned for alleged Facebook post against

Raj Thackeray let off

POLITICS NEWS, Updated Nov 29, 2012 at 08:50am IST

Mumbai: The 19-year-old boy who was questioned for allegedly posting offensive comments against Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray on Facebook has now been let off. The boy was handed over to the police by MNS workers on Wednesday to explain the comment posted about Raj Thackeray.

The party’s student wing president also filed a complaint. Police sources say that the boy’s Facebook account was hacked before the alleged offensive comment was posted.

Earlier, a bandh was on Wednesday observed in Palghar town in adjoining Thane district following a call by Shiv Sena against suspension of two senior police officers in connection with the arrest of two girls over a Facebook post, criticising shutdown during Bal Thackeray’s funeral.

Commercial establishments, schools and colleges at Palghar remained shut and there was no vehicular traffic in the town, party sources said. No untoward incident was reported so far, police said. The Palghar Bar Association had also called for a bandh in the courts today to protest the transfer of the local Judicial Magistrate First Class (JFMC) who had “promptly” granted bail to the two girls.

The girls, both 21, were arrested after one of them had lamented in a Facebook post the November 18 shutdown due to Thackeray’s funeral and her friend had ‘liked’ the post. Though the girl didn’t name Thackeray, the local Sena leader complained against the girls and police arrested the duo on November 19, sparking an outrage.

On November 20, police arrested the vandals who had damaged one of the girls’ uncle’s hospital on November 18, despite her removing the post and apologising that day itself. Maharashtra government had on Tuesday suspended the two police officers, SP (Thane rural) Ravindra Sengaonkar and senior police inspector Shrikant Pingle.

A 19-year-old boy has been detained by the police in Palghar for allegedly posting a scurrilous post on Facebook against Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray.

Yahoo! India News – 14 hours ago

MUMBAI: It seems that the police have learnt no lessons from the arrest of two young women over a Facebook post that has sparked off rage against the government over the misuse of Section 66A.

In spite of all the criticism that the police faced over the arrests, a 19-year-old boy has been detained by the police in Palghar for allegedly posting a scurrilous post on Facebook against Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, NDTV reports say.

NDTV reports says that a mob of MNS supporters had forced the boy to come to the police station and was detained there but was not charged yet.

However, a police official from Palghar, declining to be identified, said the “youth had neither been detained nor arrested, but was merely being questioned” and no offence has yet been registered in the matter.

Identified as an 18-year-old meat shop assistant, Sunil Vishwakarmawas picked up Wednesday for quizzing by police after some Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) activists complained of objectionable matter allegedly posted under his name on networking site Facebook.

According to initial investigations, it was found that Vishwakarma was unable to operate Facebook and police suspected someone might have created his fake profile, pointing to hacking.

The official said the matter was beyond the purview of the Palghar police and would be transferred to the Thane police’s cyber cell for probe and action.

Vishwakarma “has been kept in the police station to protect him from possible attacks” as police probed the issue, the official said.

Today, Palghar town and surrounding areas remained shut Wednesday in response to a call by the Shiv Sena to oppose the suspension of the two police officials who had arrested two girls for their Facebook comments on Bal Thackeray’s death.

The shutdown call evoked a near-total response in the industrial town, around 100 km north-west of the state capital Mumbai in Thane district.

Two girls from Palghar, Shaheen Dadha and her friend Renu Srinivasan, had questioned on Facebook the shutdown after the death of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray Nov 17 and also the following day when he was cremated in Mumbai. They were arrested by two police officials, who were placed under suspension Tuesday.



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