Bhumika Sharma1* and Poonam Pant2
Received: January 21, 2021 Published: February 04, 2021
Corresponding author:Bhumika Sharma, Ph.D., Research Scholar, Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla, HP, India
Two recent incidents – trolling of Safoora Zargar and bois locker room are enough to disturb any prudent person. The list is long, women have always been seen inferior to their counter-parts. They have been facing violence, harassment and eve-teasing. The digital platforms with its multifarious advantages have put their lives also at more scrutiny. Corona Virus which emerged from China in the late 2019 and in 2020 in rest of the world definitely changed the lives of everyone. Amidst the news of deaths due to COVID 19, few other matters also came to highlight regarding how women are treated online. It is true that even before the lockdown, same things have been taking place for many years, but the lockdown has given the opportunity to ponder about them more extensively. Just because, they are born as women , do the society gets the right to abuse them in multiple ways. Sometimes the religion adds to more concerns. Woman and too Muslim is an added disadvantage in the democratic egalitarian society. This paper highlights few of the instances where women have been subjected to violations of their human rights over the past few years on online platforms. They have been questioned for their dressing, their acting choices, their expression of views, relationships etc. It is hoped that a positive change in the minds of people takes place so that equality may enjoyed by everyone in the society, irrespective of the biological, social, economic and other differences.
Keywords:Constitution; Digital; Women; Human Rights; Hope; India
Many social media platforms in these days are overflowed with messages and contents targeting the Jamia Milia Islamia (JMI) scholar and activist Safoora Zargar who was arrested by the Delhi Police’s special cell on April 10, 2020 for her alleged participation in the Delhi riots for her marital status and pregnancy. Trollers targetted her that she is unmarried1. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) on one side being a powerful device to enhance gender equality and empower women, on the other side are becoming danger to women’s physical and emotional integrity when used to perpetrate violence2. Over the years, the social media platform has advanced as a device for political appointment, campaigning and activism. Almost on dailybasis , women across these platforms face a barrage of abuse for exercising their fundamental human right of Freedom of Speech and Expression3, as well as right to dignity4 . Girls and women around the world are subjected to violence on account of their gender. Violence towards women and girls (VAWG) knows no boundaries, cutting across borders, race, culture and income groups, deeply harming sufferers, persons around them, and society in general5.
The increasing reach of the Internet, the quick spread of mobile information and communications technologies (ICTs) and the extensive growth in the social media users have offered new occasions of getting and disseminating the flow of information across globe. Though, they are also being used as equipment to cause harm to women and girls through various modes such as online trolling, online hate speech, doxing, cyber stalking, online harassment. The online Violence towards Women is rising as an international problem with serious consequences for societies and economies everywhere in the world. The statistics pose risks to the peace and prosperity for all enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, and, in particular, to the goals of inclusive, sustainable development that puts sex equality and the empowerment of women as key to its achievement6.
The incidences of cyber VAWG havemajor social and economic consequences upon the victims. Fears of rape, death, and stalking put a top on emotional bandwidth and put a stress on monetary assets (in terms of legal fees, online protection services, and missed wages, among others). The direct and indirect expenses to societies and economies are also important, as requirements for health care, legal and social facilities rise and output goes down with the sense of harmony and safety required for business to flourish. Cyber VAWG can likewise have unfavourable effect on the activity of and support for free speech and other human rights7.
Similar to offline spaces, the discrimination faced by women online is intersectional and influenced by many other factors, for example, race, ethnicity, caste, sexual orientation, sex identity and expression, capacities, age, class, revenue, culture, religion, and urban or rural setting8. The expanding spread of the Internet outlines the urgency for effective legal and social controls on temper and criminal conduct online.
Amnesty International India as a part of the Amnesty International global human rights movement, published its report on Revealing Online Exploitation Faced by Women Politicians in India in the year 2019. The study focused on the nature of online exploitation faced by women politicians in India during the 2019 General Elections of India. The study found that exploitation face by the Indian women politicians was high. The study supports the view that for many women, the social media platform has turned into a ‘battlefield9.
The report focusses on the sex equality and the empowerment of women in the digital age. The report highlighted the fast spread of mobile data and communications technologies (ICTs) as device to cause injury to women and girls. As per the report the Cyber Violence against women and girls is having severe consequences for societies and economies round the globe. The report also focusses on the mode of committing violence such as online trolling, online hate speech, doxing, cyber stalking, online harassment etc11.
The report is based on the survey and interview of some of the social media users across major cities in India. The report highlighted the Online abuse as a major issue in the Country. The report additionally gives the findings of the survey in which it stated that the most of the women are ignorant about their legal rights and mostly ignores the harassment and uses the means such as blocking the account rather than reporting it. The report provided some measures for dealing with online harassment such as education for law enforcement agencies, for victims and their communities, and also about the importance of prosecuting individuals who commits violence against women in social media platforms12.
The Report Focusses on the new type of online harassment i.e., State Sponsored Trolling use by states, to target the individual critical of the state by using online hate and harassment campaigns. The report provides for the responsibility of the state for using the mechanism for trolling resulted into the harassment. The report also provides the instances of state-sponsored trolling in various countries like Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Ecuador, the Philippines, Turkey, Venezuela, and the United States. It also suggested some policies to be followed by the states and IT Companies to deal with the abuse of state sponsored trolling13.
International human rights standards classify violence against women as a form of discrimination that requires comprehensive responses14. Online violence as a category of violence against women encompasses any act of gender based violence against women that is committed, assisted or aggravated in part or fully by the use of Information Communications and Technology (ICT) viz. smartphones, social media platforms or email enabled by Internet against a woman. Over the years, many women from different fields are becoming the subject of online violence specially through trolling for expressing their views and giving opinion on a particular matter. There is a gross violation of Women’s rights by abusing her online.
Table 1: Incidents of Women subject to trolling in past years15.
The right to have protection against violence has been treated as fundamental human right of Women under International Law Standards. She is entitled to have this right as a human being. The United Nations and other Human Right organizations recognizes the duty of the national government to safeguard and encourage such rights. Various treaties, conventions, resolutions, declarations have been passed by various International Organizations to Prohibit the violence against women. These treaties are formally adopted by the member states in form of their national laws. Every state ratifying these treaties and conventions are under obligation to follow the recommendations without violating the rights of citizens.
Table 2: Conventions vis-à-vis Rights of Women31.
The Preamble of the Indian Constitution mandates social justice to all the citizens, irrespective of their gender and other differences. Social justice includes the protection of rights of women against Violence in any form either physical, psychological by any means including the digital form. The Indian Information Technology (IT) Act enacted in the year 2000 is based on the United Nations Model Law on Electronic Commerce, 1997. The Act focused on communications infrastructure and e-commerce initiatives. The IT Act included some penalties for economic crime committed online, but failed to address cybercrime against individuals32. Amendments to the law passed in 2008 regulated more illegal cyber activities, including distribution of images depicting child sexual abuse.
Table 3: Various laws in India vis-à-vis Rights of Women Online33.
As the Internet evolves and social media and networking tools increasingly become an intrinsic part of people’s lives around the globe, attitudes and norms that contribute to cyber VAWG must be addressed with exigency. A combined worldwide exertion, led by the United Nations system, has put in place the pillars for a 21st century supportable development paradigm. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), establishing the global development priorities for the next 15 years, include a goal on gender equality, which places women’s access to technology for their empowerment as one of the core indicators for progress. For this to be realized, all shareholders must take faster actions to ensure a safer, more secure Internet for present and future generations – one without endemic VAWG.
(i) Sensitization, Safety and Sanctionsarerequired to deal
with the abuse against Women. Sensitization includes educating
the ICT users through various modes such as Parents, teachers
as well as police and judicial authorities. Safety measures
includes women’s shelters, crisis centres, help lines and
education. Sanctions includes and addresses the legal system to
provide speedy justice to the victims of online harassment.
(ii) The Social Media Platforms ought to advance their reporting devices to guarantee that there must be better reaction to complaints of violence and abuse.
(iii) The Social Media Platforms ought to give greater clearness about how it interprets and recognises violence and exploitation on the platform and how it handles reports of such abuse.
(iv) Organising the safety and awareness campaigns for all users about the harmful impact of online abuse on the platform.
(v) Employment of the local person as grievance officers, to ensure that workers can adequately evaluate complaints about posts made in local languages based on local cultural context.
(vi) Execute the law against persons answerable for instigating and carrying out online violence against women and marginalized communities, irrespective of their political or religious plan.
(vii) Inform officers about the laws that apply to online harassment, and how to direct complainants to appropriate legal recourse.
(viii) The Intermediary or ISP should me made liable for the display of the content violating the rights of the Women on the Internet. It should have the responsibility to adopt the device automatically removing such unlawful content posted by the user in social media platform violating the rights of the other users including Women and girls.
1Available at http://www.quint.com _ (Visited on June 16,2020)
2The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) report on the occasion of 59th Session on the Commission on the Status of Women, on March 9, 2015, Available at http://www.ipu.org (Visited on June 17th 2020).
3Constitution of India,1950, Article 19(1) (a).
4Id Article 21.
5Available at http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en/, http://www.un.org/en/women/endviolence/index. html and http://www. un.org/en/women/endviolence/factsheets.shtml
6The United Nation SDG Goal 5.
7Available at http://www.broadbandcommission.org (Visited on June 14, 2020)
8TROLL PATROL INDIA Exposing Online Abuse Faced by Women Politicians in India, Report of Amnesty International India available at http://amnesty. org.in _ (Visited on June 14,2020)
9Amensty International India- Troll Patrol India – Exposing online abuse faced by women politicians in India, 2 (Indians for Amnesty International Trust, Karnataka) 2020.
10The Broadband Commission for Digital Development was launched by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in response to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call to step up efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals.
11UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development- Cyber Violence against Women and Girls available at http://www.broadbandcommission.org (Visited on June 16, 2020).
12Available at http://www.feminisminindia.com _ (Visited on June 16,2020)
13Institute for Future, State Sponsored Trolling, 2018 Available at http://www.iftf.org
14United Nations Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979.
15Compiled by the Researchers.
16Available at http://www.newindianexpress.com _ (Visited on June 12, 2020)
17Available at http://www.aninews.in _ (Visited on June 12,2020)
18Available at http://www.newindianexpress.com _ (Visited on June12,2020)
19Available at http://www.india.com _ (Visited on June 9,2020)
20Available at http://www.newindianexpress.com _ (Visited on June 13,2020)
21Available at http://www.indiatoday.in _ (Visited on June 13,2020)
22The captain of Indian Women Cricket Team trolled for inappropriate dressing when she posted a selfie in twitter for which she received sexiest remarks by trollers, available at http://www.hindustantimes.com _(Visited on May 28, 2020)
23The Indian Tennis Player trolled about her nationality after being married to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik. In 2018 troll questioned her Nationality and wished her a Happy Independence Day on August, 14, available at http://www.dnaindia.com _ (Visited on May 28, 2020)
24The Australian Football player trolled with sexual abuse after her photo of kicking the football in the match organised by Australian Football League went viral, available at http://www.irishtimes.com _ (Visited on May 28,2020)
25Indian Shuttler often trolled for being the child of a Chinese mother and has recently trolled and abused with racist taunts like ‘Half Corona’, available at; http://www.india.com _ (Visited on June 12, 2020)
26Vikas Mishra, an officer in the regional passport office in Uttar Pradesh’s Lucknow was transferred after he allegedly humiliated an inter-faith couple, asking the woman to change her last name and the man to convert to Hinduism, available at: http://www.thehindu.com _ (Visited on May 30,2020)
27A Dhaka Blogger received death and rape threats and an email from an Islamic extremist group that claimed the working of women outside their homes without ‘Purdah’ as a punishable offence under Islamic Sharia Law, available at: http://www.thewire.in _ (Visited on June 6,2020)
28The writer and Journalist trolled for having fake twitter account with her name in which she was supporting child rapists, calling them ‘human’ and apparently said Muslims were not safe in India. She was traumatised and threatened with gang rape for this fake twit, available at: http://peninternational. org _ (Visited on June 10,2020)
29Trolled and received the threats of being murdered and raped and also received obscene messages from the troller for offering her home to Kashmiris feeling unsafe after the Pulwama attack, available at: http://www.idiva.com _ (Visited on June 12,2020)
30The NDTV Journalist trolled for attending the talk session based on discussion on India’s move on scrapping Article 370 which was said to be sponsored by the Pakistan Army, available at: http://www.thelogicalIndian.com _ (Visited on June 12,2020)
31Compiled by the Researchers.
32Halder, D., & Jaishankar K, “Cyber Crimes against women in India: Problems, Perspectives and Solutions,” 48-62 (TMC Academy Journal, Singapore) 2008
33Compiled by the Researchers.
34It establishes penalties for individuals that disclose personal information without the target’s consent.
35An individual convicted of cyberstalking faces up to three years in prison for a first offense, and up to five years’ imprisonment for subsequent offenses.
36The Section prohibits the publication or sending by post of books, pamphlets etc., containing indecent representation of women.
37Inserted vide Information Technology Amendment Act,2008. The Act provides punishment with Imprisonment up to 3 years and fine up to two lakh rupees, or both for violation of privacy of women.
38Inserted vide Information Technology Amendment Act,2008. The Act provides Punishment with Imprisonment up to 3 years for and fine up to 5 lakh rupees for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form.
39Inserted vide Information Technology Amendment Act,2008. The Act provides Punishment with Imprisonment up to 5 years and fine up to 10 lakh rupees for publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually exploited act in electronic form.
40The Act provides the punishment up to 5 years and fine up to 10 lakh rupees for publishing or transmitting of material depicting children in sexually exploited act in electronic form.
41Criminalizes the unauthorized access of someone’s digital content as a breach of privacy.
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Analytical ChemistryWentworth Institute of Technology, USA
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