Guest Post by Vatya Raina
The fight for half the Earth and half the sky is never at rest around the globe. Women of the world are constantly fighting their oppressors in different colours. The debate around #BoisLockerRoom stories on Instagram and the trolls concerned about the marital status of a pregnant woman in jail, for practising her right to protest are of similar nature.
In 2017, The Jawaharlal Nehru University’s administration under the command of Vice-Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar arbitarily dismantled the GSCASH (Gender Sensitization Committee Against Sexual Harassment). At the same time, women of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) were leading the movement against sexual harassment.
Today, when a pregnant student activist is fighting for her rights inside the jail, some women are continuing to resist and expose a group of young boys, by revealing the screenshots of an Instagram chat screen, where the participants of the group named ‘Bois Locker Room’ shared some non-consensual pictures of women as well as underage girls. After the screenshots went viral, these boys expressed their anger by suggesting gang-rape of all the women who shared it. On the other hand, Safoora Zargar, a research scholar of Jamia Millia Islamia, who was associated with the Jamia Coordination Committee (JCC), and was part of the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests organised by university students in December and January has been charged under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and is send behind the bars. She has been arrested for allegedly leading the anti-CAA protest at Jaffrabad metro station in February. Turning a blind eye to the medical condition of the student, the trolls are busy assassinating her character.
While both these events took place on different platforms, nature is similar. Harassment is the base of both the cases, be it online or offline. The Information Technology (IT) cell have trolled many dissenting voices from the marginalised section, to an extent, that many women have received several death and rape threats. Recently, Kapil Mishra of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) replied to Salman Nizami’s tweet, where Nizami compared the atrocity on the student activist to the impunity provided to the hatemongers. Mishra stated that his hate speech should not be connected with the activist’s pregnancy as “It doesn’t work that way”.
The fight for half the Earth and half the sky is never at rest around the globe. Women around the world are constantly fighting their oppressors in different colours. The debate around #BoisLockerRoom stories on Instagram and the trolls concerned about the marital status of a pregnant woman in jail, for practising her right to protest are of similar nature. Kapil Mishra is a living example of why objectification comes naturally to the privileged gender. The go-to solution for silencing women is character assassination, rape, harassment, and objectification. This not only satisfies their male ego but also re-assures them of their power upon the “weaker sex”. This is just the tip of the iceberg, which forms a pervasive issue of rape culture. This is a systematic problem which encourages a sense of entitlement. Thus, both incidents should not be viewed in isolation from each other. From being morally policed during our primary education, to the flaws in educating men, we have reached the point of the normalizing victimization, which leads to removal of autonomy which thereafter leads to explicit violence.
The debate of safe spaces and women’s safety at all platforms is encouraged at all times. Yet, gender-based violence, discrimination, harassment has seen a steep rise, lately by the hands of the misogynistic and patriarchal structure of our society. While we recollect that pregnant women are not detained even in war zones, we must never forget that a student activist is arrested in her second trimester, during a pandemic. It is also important to note the kind of witch-hunting that is carried out by the state. Rightwing goons and their masterminds who were involved in inciting violence in the JNU attack on 5th January 2019 as confirmed by the Delhi Police, are still roaming free, while many scholars rot inside the jail.
The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) took suo-moto cognizance in both the cases regarding abuse and character assassination of the arrested research scholar, Safoora Zargar as well as Bois Locker Room. In a recent turn of events, we have also seen Swati Maliwal, current chairperson of Delhi Commission for Women, being bullied by these trolls for speaking against the sexual objectification in these cases. Evidently, “tolerating” assertive women or women at power position is not something taught to us by this structure.
( Vatya Raina, is pursuing her Master’s from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai in Women’s Studies)