On Monday, the Delhi Police announced that it will award a 20-year-old girl with Rs 5,000 for her courage in posting the photograph of a youth, who passed vulgar comments against her, on social media. The department’s gesture could well be an encouragement to help victims of sexual harassment to speak up, but it also affirms the new role social media could play in ensuring such cases are brought to public knowledge, often an effective first-stage deterrent.
In fact, in recent times, the social media appears to have fast become the go-to place to take a strong stand against sexual harassment. The medium gives immediate visibility and traction to the complaint, is often shared and it is ‘simply cool’ to be seen using the medium.
The debate then is centered on whether social media discussions and posts could actually substitute for justice as traditionally understood.
‘Helps bypass cumbersome legal process’
“Such posts invite discussion, outrage and anger. This is the only way to bring about a change. Posting pictures or videos online is faster and easier compared to the cumbersome legal process of filing a complaint and then following it through till the end,” says Prerna Jhawar, an MBA graduate from Amritsar, adding that fake posts hindered the process.
Jasmeet Kaur, a mass communication graduate from Jalandhar, says, “I believe sexual harassment perpetrators should be exposed on social media. The young now ‘hangout’ in the virtual world. The veracity of any post is verifiable through actual physical checking and cannot stay up for long. This is what happened with the Rohtak sisters in February.”
“I am all for this recent trend of shaming people who misbehave with women. However, sexual harassment is accepted quite nonchalantly in our country. How many pictures can we post? I am worried about the consequences for the woman who exposes such perverts. The police also have a tough task in trying to verify such posts,” says Lakshita Aggarwal, 25, a marketing executive in Chandigarh.
No substitute for official complaint, say police
An official from Chandigarh Police Cyber Crime Investigation Cell says, “There is no dedicated mechanism to track complaints from individual social media posts. We take prompt action when the internet is used as an interface for crimes such as obscenity, stalking, extortion etc. Social media can and should be used only as a mechanism for spreading awareness,” the official said.
“If a person is logging onto Facebook or Twitter to make a grievance post, he/she can just as easily log onto chandigarhpolice.nic.in and e-mail a complaint. We ensure prompt action,” he added.
Akin to mob justice: expert
Dhiman Parekh, one of the founders of betterindia.com, a popular website which focuses on developing positive initiatives in any field through the country says, “Social media is a great medium to create awareness. However, as consumers we need to ensure that we don’t confuse mob justice with the real thing.”