In March 2015, a woman on-board an Indigo flight clicked pictures of two men who were allegedly taking pictures of an air hostesses and ogling at a woman feeding her baby. She forwarded the images to the airline’s official handle which then took action against the offenders.
In April 2015, Telugu TV actor Ashmita Karnani posted pictures of two men who had harassed her in Punjagutta, Hyderabad. Her post went viral and the two men were arrested.
If you are a woman and travelling alone, obscene comments are something you learn to tune out. Do they fill you with an impotent rage? Yes. Are you desperate to lash out? Yes. And then, when it becomes too much to handle, you do react only to be met with, at best, indifference of bystanders or, at worst, a voyeuristic glee.
So, next time when those horrendous comments or that shaming pat on the back, or worse, happens, you just cannot gather the courage to shout out aloud. That is till women realised that through
, they can not only name and shame those perpetrators, but also help the police to find and arrest them.
Even if the face-off with the harasser failed, even if the he ran away before the police arrived, even if those present preferred to be mute spectators, your Facebook/Twitter handle and pictures/videos clicked by your smartphone could come to your aid. If trial by Twitter was what it took to get some of your self respect back, it was fine by the women.
A woman in Mumbai took photograph of a man who masturbated in front of him and put it on Twitter. She asked for help to identify him.
Another posted the video of a man who tried to touch through the gap in the seats while onboard a flight. A police case was filed against it.
Social media not only proved its worth when it came to empowering women, it also gave them a voice in a country where harassment out on the road is so common, nobody gives it a second glance. However, is the woman always right? What if the man who has been named and shamed on social media is innocent? Even if he is absolved after an investigation, there are always the serious ramifications from the public trial on social media.
And what about a he-said-she-said fight? Who wins that in the vitriolic town square that is social media.
A case in point is what happened in west Delhi on Sunday night. A young woman posted the picture of abiker, along with the number of his motorcycle, alleging he passed lewd remarks at her. When she reportedly objected and said she will post his picture on social media, his remark – which probably all women have heard at various times – was “Complaint karke dikha, fir dekhiyo kya karta hun main".
The tweet by the DU student went viral and the man was arrested based on the woman’s complaint. And then, the man took to Facebook and alleged that it was the woman’s fault. He said that she was an AAP volunteer who was trying to control traffic and get some publicity. A verbal skirmish ended with her threatening to send police to his house, according to him.
Who’s right and who’s wrong in this case? We would not know till the police end its investigation but in the meanwhile, social media rages on blatantly taking sides and heaping scorn on anybody who dares to state an opposing point of view.
Cyber crime expert Priyadarshi Banerjee says, “Police today has a presence in the cyberspace and if such a post is escalating on web, it will take cognizance of it. It is considered intimation of a crime and police considers it as an FIR.”
And what if the man accused in the post is found to be innocent after the due process? “He can start a criminal prosecution and bring an action for defamation. Sec 499 and 500 of IPC can be invoked to safeguard interests. A civil case can also be started to claim damages. He doesn’t need to wait till the case finishes in the court for these steps. Depending on the police investigation and depending on if they fail to find any basis to the accusation, this process can be started.”
Meanwhile, there are others who believe
will act as a deterrent. “It gives the offenders the publicity they deserve. It also encourages other women to fight against offenders,” says Chaitali, project co-ordinator, Jaagori, a women’s rights NGO. Psychologist Pulkit Sharma also believes that online shaming can stop men from becoming repeat offenders. “Shame is an intense feeling. It positively alters behaviour,” he says.
For all of those who are clicking on likes and venting online in the case, here’s a thought: What’s stopping you from reacting in the same way when you see a woman being molested in front of your eyes?
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