THIS REPORT WAS CO-AUTHORED BY DR. ANJA KOVACS, RICHA KAUL PADTE AND SHOBHA SV. Giving rise to new ways to exercise the right to freedom of expression, to the potential of fluid identities and to new ways to interact for those with limited offline opportunities, the democratisation of societies through the Internet is a phenomenon many have celebrated. But in reality, the hierarchies of the real world are all too often not effaced in the virtual world; instead, they are reborn and reconstructed in such a way that new mediums become the sites for old discriminations. Despite the Internet’s empowering potential, the gender-based hierarchies, violences, and manifestations of discrimination that women (or people who do not define their genders as singularly male) must face on a daily basis are also paralleled online, in India as elsewhere.
This paper seeks to explore the different forms of verbal abuse that women who are publicly vocal on online platforms in India face; the non-legal and legal strategies that they use to deal with such abuse; and the relationship of both with offline contexts that have shaped women’s experiences for centuries. As we will see, whatever cyberspace purported characterists, women’s bodies and sexuality, and the negotiation of the public and the private deeply affect their virtual existence as much as it does their offline being.
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