In Focus

Social media used to register complaints, obtain justice

By Vedika Jain

In fact, social media is also being wisely used by many to complain against the authorities who do not register complaints or align with perpetrators to harass victims. In the new Digital India, all government departments, ministries, police departments and other entities are present on social media. The fact that this information is public and not in closed quarters makes sure that prompt action is taken.

“My friend was being harassed by her parents to get married to a boy against her wish. She tweeted to women activists and government-authorised entities about her situation and prompt action was taken where her parents were summoned,” quips Delhi-based law student Shanaya Kapoor. She says social media has helped many women in getting access to the right authority without fearing for her life or limb and that is the potential of social media to close this gap.

Several studies have found that in countries with larger gender inequality such as countries in South Asia, women are more likely to be present and active in the virtual space. Social media has also enabled ‘weaker’ women to look for opportunities and seek those opportunities that they may be traditionally denied. It is a strong medium to bring women together for professional networking and personal relationship building to support and strengthen each other.

However, like all good things, there is a dark side to this phenomenon as well that severely risks the well-being, safety, mental health and self-esteem of women. Having an online presence makes women prone to cyber-bullying and cyber-stalking. The barriers that women face in public space are as real and prevalent in cyber space also.

Trolling, targeted bullying, online harassment are examples of the risks that women face with their presence on social media. Even though there are an equal number of men and women on social networking sites, women are more likely to be subject to online abuse and online stalking.

There are new forms of crimes that are prevalent in the virtual space and create a sense of threat and fear in the mind of a woman, thereby affecting her well-being. Cyber-bullying can be done in myriad ways and over diverse social media platforms. The following acts comprise cyber-bullying:
- Hacking of accounts
- Cyber stalking
- Posting of vulgar messages
- Threatening with a violent act
- Posting embarrassing content

Although the Information Technology Act checks such offences, the trauma is already inflicted when a girl is exposed to such acts. Other prevalent forms of cyber crimes against women include identity theft, trolling, online abuse, etc. It was not long ago when a political spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi faced rape threats against her and her daughter on social media. Such instances are far too many and affect women from across industry.

Unlike the status of women rights in the ‘real’ world that are often affected by societal and cultural norms, it’s much easier and faster to ensure equitable women’s rights in the ‘virtual’ world.