NEW DELHI, India
From rape threats to sexist comments and questions about their personal lives, female Indian politicians face daily abuse on social media for voicing opinions and for their presence in the male-dominated world of Indian politics.
“Most of the trollers on social media, assassinate the character of women who voice out their opinion in public spaces or are present in spaces of power,” said Priyanka Chaturvedi of the Shiv Sena Party, formerly national spokeswoman of the Indian National Congress told Anadolu Agency. “These comments and tweets are derogatorily leading to personal attacks. I have received rape threats, stalked by people, they have not even spared my daughter out of this. Some lashed rape threats to my young daughter.”
Chaturvedi, on three different occasions, reached out to police and cybercrime departments with complaints.
Authorities took note and all of the accounts were permanently blocked and one person is due in the court for hearing.
But Chaturvedi said she will not refrain from voicing her opinions as it will encourage young women leaders who have ideas and are attacked for voicing them.
Just like Chaturvedi, most Indian female politicians have faced trolling and online abuse for being open about their ideas.
For Nighat Abbass, a Bhartiya Janata Party spokeswoman, comments directed at her cast and sexist comments have affected her mental health so much that she stayed away from social media for a few weeks.
“There were so many belittling comments targeted towards my family that at some point it started to take a toll on my health. For a month, I did not handle my account as the threats and the cruelty around it was affecting my work. These trollers do not understand that their comments actually can affect mental health and put people under depression. I ended up registering FIRs against two people and the hearing is due in the court,” said Abbas.
“I wish there was some senior woman influencer to guide me through this and to counsel me to ignore all of this, initially. I suggest all women politicians to learn to ignore, calm their nerves, move on as most of these troller accounts are fake,” added Abbass.
A recently revealed study conducted by Amnesty International confirmed online misogyny faced by these women leaders. It reviewed 114,716 tweets sent to 95 women politicians between March and May 2019, during the Indian General Elections and concluded Indian women politicians faced a shocking proportion of abuse on Twitter.
“You are not only trolled for your politics but your marital status, looks, etc. Morphed photos and memes get circulated on social media. Men do not have to endure this kind of ugliness; this online misogyny exists in the rudest form especially for women politicians,” said Shazia Ilmi, a BJP leader.
“I have seen tough times when my conservative relatives and friends were circulating threats and morphed photos of me. I had to reach out to the cybercrime cell. But unlike initially, when I would feel ashamed, now I retweet their comments and tweets to shame them in public,” added Ilmi.