The past few days have been traumatic for Indian women online, but not shocking. If there’s anything that Indian women are used to, it’s rape and death threats. Whether it’s journalists, actors, writers, children of prominent women, or comedians, as we saw this weekend, Indian women get rape threats for things which men don’t even think about. If you’re a man, have you ever thought that posting a picture of yourself online could put yours and your family’s life in danger? Or that joking about some silly Quora answers could invite rape threats against you and your family? That’s what happened to comedian Agrima Joshua recently. A piece of human waste named Shubham Mishra threatened her and her family with sexual assault because she made fun of obviously stupid Quora answers.
The above are just two examples of reasons for which women have been threatened with violence. It doesn’t sound believable, but it’s the cold, hard truth. Trust me, I’ve been threatened online for writing about it in the past.
Here are a few things for which women routinely get death and rape threats in India.
1. Acting in a movie… as an actor
Swara Bhaskar acted (which is her job) in a movie (which is how she gets paid for her job) and got viciously abused for it. How many times have men portrayed characters which are rapists and murderers and been lauded for their skills? We have watched traumatic scenes of violence against women without outrage, but a woman masturbating on screen is apparently reason enough to threaten her repeatedly. Richa Chadha is another actor who is constantly trolled and threatened for being outspoken on social media or doing films which are, according to the protectors of Indian tradition, “chhee“.
2. Voicing their opinion against a political party
This, as we know, really riles people up and makes misogynists lose their minds. Speaking against a political party is a guaranteed way for women to get rape threats in India. Don’t believe us? Ask Gurmehar Kaur, the young woman who first became popular with trolls for saying that Pakistan didn’t kill her father in Kargil in 1999, war did. Then she spoke against ABVP after a few members orchestrated an attack on students in Delhi’s Ramjas College. And the floodgates opened once again. So much for being proud of martyrs and their families.
3. Posting pictures online… of themselves
Alanna Panday, Ananya Panday’s cousin and an Instagram celebrity, posted pictures of herself in a bikini. On her own account. And you know what she got for it? A woman tagged her parents and said that Alanna “deserved to be gang-raped” for putting up such a picture. “I wish I had spoken about it sooner, but waking up and reading things like this just became normal to me – it’s an everyday part of my life,” she said. Read that again. Threats like these should not be part of anyone’s life.
4. Being born to a politician
In 2018, Priyanka Chaturvedi, then a Congress spokesperson, had to deal with a Twitter user threatening to rape her 10-year-old daughter. And why, you ask? Because she’s a politician who was vocal online about her political views and has a daughter. That is it.
5. Doing their jobs as journalists
When women in India become journalists, they need to be prepared for the most vile form of hatred and trolling. Just for doing their jobs. Rana Ayyub, a prominent Indian journalist, was recently threatened with rape and death for speaking about Kashmir. She’s a journalist, talking about current affairs is her job. She was even reminded of Gauri Lankesh, a fellow journalist who routinely received hate online and was eventually killed, as part of these threats.
6. Saying they like one actor more than the other
Recently, actor Meera Chopra did a fun Q&A session online in which someone asked her about who her favourite actor from the south was. She said Mahesh Babu. Then, someone else asked if she was a fan of Junior NTR. She said she doesn’t know him and is not a fan. That is it. What followed was thousands of tweets abusing Meera and her family, and threatening her with rape and murder. All she did to attract this level of hatred was say that she was not a fan of an actor.
7. Joking about funny things they read online
As mentioned earlier, comedian Agrima Joshua was targeted by a fellow named Shubham Mishra for apparently “insulting Shivaji Maharaj”. He abused Agrima and threatened her and her family with rape. He was so aghast at someone insulting a historical figure that he decided to retaliate in this manner. The video, for starters, is from 2019. Secondly, if you watch the video, you’ll be as confused as I was, because where is the insult? All Agrima did was make fun of Quora answers she read about the proposed Shivaji statue. So, the next time you read something stupid online, share it with friends, and laugh about it, remember that a woman was threatened with violence and murder for doing the exact same thing.
This is nowhere close to the end of the list of reasons for which women in India are threatened every day. We are threatened and abused for things we say, write, wear, eat, drink, or read. Even talking about our experiences of sexual assault or harassment invites further attacks. Where’s the sense in that?