If the Palghar Facebook arrest case was anything to go by, then it is evident that most of the women voicing their opinions on the Internet face severe backlash. In fact, according to a study conducted by NGOs Internet Democracy Project (IDP) and Point of View, women are subjected to sexist statements that range from harassment to rape and even death threats. Researchers from these NGOs visited RD National College, Bandra, on Wednesday to discuss the issue.
After analysing several interviews of women on the topic of online abuse, researcher Anja Kovacs and her colleagues noted the trends in women being harassed and abused online.
The study found that women who were targeted by abusers were those who wrote on politics, criticised the idea of development in Gujarat or chief minister Narendra Modi, questioned jingoism, commented on the Kashmir issue and also spoke on feminist topics.
Shobha SV, one of the researchers, said, "On Facebook, Twitter and Wordpress, we found that abusers target the most visible markers of gender — a woman's body! Threats of sexual violence, including gang-rape, were very common. The harassers would also threaten to telecast the gang-rape. Television journalists were also not spared."
Indirect forms of abuse were also common. "Parallel blogs were started by abusers to target other female bloggers," Shobha added.
"A woman's sex life or her family's sex life was a matter of ridicule too. This means that abusers feel that the use of images and talk of sex bothers women. Harassment is way to try and silence women," another researcher Richa Kaul Padhpe said.