There has been a lot of discussion recently on social media around whether or not Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi made a specific statement on online trolling against women. A report published by NDTV on Tuesday stated that Gandhi has said that online trolling against women will be considered violence.
The report was based on an interview that the minister had given to the channel after she released the draft of National Policy for Women, 2016 which seeks to address emerging challenges confronting women, including protection against cyber crime, security to surrogate mothers and bringing gender sensitivity in family planning policies.
In the interview to journalist Sunetra Chowdry, Gandhi spoke on several of these issues including violence against women in the internet.
However, some social media users have since contended that Gandhi never said- at least not in the 20 minute-long video released by the channel- used the phrase "trolling" and that the headline of the article was misleading. They also argued that equating viciousness to trolling is incorrect.
Also @sunetrac full statement is about specific issue of harassment of women on matrimonial sites. Not something as vast as online trollingâ€” You (@bwoyblunder) May 18, 2016
To put things into context, here is the transcript of what Maneka Gandhi said in the interview when asked about online violence.
Sunetra Choudhury: We are all talking about physical violence, but a lot of things which... because I was talking to a lot of the girls here and talking about...online...kind of... is that something that's your the new policy... and is that something you recommend?
Maneka Gandhi: Very strongly. Very strongly. And we've recommended to the home ministry that they have to start a division which deals just with...you know...viciousness against women on the net.
On our site, we have redone the matrimonial columns. One crore women are on matrimonial columns, so it is not small, and instead of getting a mate which is what they have gone there for, they will get sexually accused, dirty innuendos, they get phoned in the middle of the night, they will be asked why, and if they are divorced they'll be asked to prove that they are sexually fine, you know all sorts of dirty things.
So we tried for two years with all these seven or eight servers, not servers whatever they call these companies, and they wouldn't come, they wouldn't come to the table.
Then we got hold of NASSCOM, got hold of the ministry for telecom and finally they changed their policies. We've given them a written policy which we should do a separate story on.
And this is what the NDTV report said:
"'Women have to deal with tremendous viciousness online,' Mrs Gandhi said while speaking on NDTV's Agenda. 'Initially, the operators would not come and talk to us and cooperate about giving details. But now they have come on board.'
The ministry of woman and child welfare, Mrs Gandhi said, has already written to the home ministry to come up with a code for online behaviour.
While releasing the new women's policy -- a document which sets out the government's agenda on women -- Mrs Gandhi said it was a journalist's complaint that had brought the problem to light. But they were now sensitised to the threats that many faced in the cyberworld and it would be treated as violence."
To the several tweets and counter-tweets, Choudhury later replied saying;
@bwoyblunder ??? Are you not listening to her talk about mha code and that 'online viciousness' is VAW?â€” sunetra choudhury (@sunetrac) May 18, 2016
@bwoyblunder Pl hear the first q on this issue and her answers. had to leave out bits to fit into 19 mins slot but not abt matrimonialâ€” sunetra choudhury (@sunetrac) May 18, 2016
Is it diff? How? https://t.co/mIpusQL7Tzâ€” sunetra choudhury (@sunetrac) May 18, 2016
@bwoyblunder my q to her we hv been talking about physical violence, what about online attacks? Do you consider that. She said yes of crs..â€” sunetra choudhury (@sunetrac) May 18, 2016
@bwoyblunder and then went on to elaborate. I dont know what you are picking on? Her msg vv clear. Online misogynistic attacks now liableâ€” sunetra choudhury (@sunetrac) May 18, 2016