Freedom of Speech and Expression is a fundamental right.
It does not cover dissent jokes and opinions.
It does not protect statements that incite violence and statements that pose an imminent danger.
Know the difference between right and abuse
According to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, discrimination against women includes gender-based violence, that is, violence against a woman, because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately, and as such is a violation of their human rights. The Committee also states that gender-based violence against women includes (but is not limited to) physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women as well as threats of such acts.
Online harassment and threats are not a new phenomenon, but the degree to which these women and girls have begun to receive increased attention like go online, get abused.
Speaking online is like taking a walk on the street.
Imagine the experience of a woman walking down the road, where eve teasings, staring, passing lewd remarks, and grope assault are common things happening to many. These expressions of violence together send her a clear message: the street is not hers, and if she enters it, this is the punishment she must bear.
Women who face online violence or witness other women facing abuse study shows that most of them exit or suppress their visibility online. Attacks by a multitude of abusers working in tandem — often referred to as a troll army — creates an environment of hostility leading to a chilling effect on women’s free expression.
Not all forms of abusive speech and harassment are direct. Some women also reported having been abused on the sly. Women often know that they are the intended target of such speech, and the audience for the speech knows so too.
Recently Seema(anonymous character) has had this experience repeatedly: Then there is this whole separate, fun group of sly tweets. Sly tweeting is talking about someone without using her handle online backbiting. So they don't take her name because then she would know but make fun of her and giggle. But women are now using their voices online to face a range of threats to shut the abusers. Let's hope this slims down the abusing online.
In recent times people started raising voice from tweeting, posting to taking on abusers, and condemning the violence women have been facing, it’s clear that something, somewhere, has shifted.
Nevertheless, India has a long way to go before it can claim to have a robust legal framework to address violence women face online. It has made some forays in this regard, but the fragmented nature of the provisions and retrograde social attitudes to the problem takes away any real impact the law can have.
It is high time that we took online abuse against women more seriously. We need to ensure women can express themselves online without fear. We need to create safe spaces for women to talk about the abuse they face. For a start, social media companies must urge to follow their community standards and rules relating to injustice against women on their platforms.
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