Actors Anna Ben, Srinda, Nimisha Sajayan and Saniya Iyappan posted videos in support of the campaign.

Refuse the abuse WCC urges stars to tell fans to behave responsibly on social media
Flix Cyberbullying Saturday, October 10, 2020 - 14:06

The Women in Cinema Collective or WCC this week, launched ‘Refuse the Abuse’ - a new online campaign against cyberbullying on social media. The collective which aims to promote women in the film field, especially in Malayalam cinema, and offer a safe space for women stakeholders of the industry, called upon several women actors in Mollywood to speak out against online abuse and cyberbullying. A blog published by the WCC also.

"Many of these people are those who are interested in copying every little act of their favorite star. The stars are also very careful in building their social media space. It will be much easier for the stars to convey to the people a firm stand that bad cyber culture should be avoided. A request to the stars who are active on social media, if you can use their influence among your fans for this, it will be extremely beneficial to improve Kerala's cyber culture. Many of the victims of cyber-attacks are also your fans; such a gesture would show your responsibility towards them," the WCC said.

Over the week, actors Anna Ben, Srinda, Saniya Iyappan and Nimisha Sajayan posted videos on social media lending their support to the campaign and speaking out against cyber abuse. Explaining the effect that abusive comments on social media can trigger, actor Nimisha Sajayan said, “It might just be a spontaneous act done using a fake profile, as a prank or a joke. But the user must remember that this joke can really affect the morale of the receiver of this abusive comments This should prompt them to think again before they post such a comment.”

“I always get comments about the way I dress. Isn’t what I wear entirely my choice? Or should I take permission from men? I often get this comment, ‘do you not have any decency or modesty’? But I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t something you must be asking yourselves,” actor Saniya Iyappan said in her video supporting the campaign.

In another 40 second video, actor Anna Ben shared that she sometimes receives abusive messages or comments on her social media. “When I confront these messages, they are either fake profiles or their profiles are deactivated immediately after sending,” she explains. WCC launched the campaign in order to throw light on the ‘Malayali culture in cyberspace’, following an academic study which shed light on the online violations and “struggles of Kerala women in cyberspace”.

The collective also posted excerpts from this study which is authored by J Devika, Chithra Vijayakumar, Darshana Sreedhar Mini, Resmi PS and Elizabeth Alexander, and which is part of a wider research project coordinated by IT for Change and Web Foundation.

The study titled, “Walking on Eggshells  – A study on gender justice and women’s struggles in Malayali Cyberspace”, explains the reason for the ‘diffidence and trepidation with which women in Kerala approach the Internet’.

Sample this, excerpts from the study give two examples of cyber abuse and grooming which affected the offline world of the victims (who were in Kerala) as well.

One was the case of a young woman whose husband abandoned her because nude images of her circulated through WhatsApp two years ago became public. “However, she was recently vindicated because the analysis of those at CDAC (Centre for Development of Advanced Computing) revealed that they were not of her,” the study report stated. This led to discussions about the kind of online violence women face.

The report also quotes an instance of online grooming and shocking violence from Kannur, where a young schoolgirl who had faced sexual violence from her father was lured by predators pretending to be friends.

She was lured by the men using fake Facebook profiles and then sexually assaulted. “Then she was made to submit to further sexual violation with the threat that images of the rape would be circulated on Facebook,” the report stated.

Police issue ‘codes of conduct’ 

The collective also adds that the steps by the police to make the Internet safer for women has turned counter productive, as it curbed women’s rights, in the name of safety.

Some of the steps taken by the Kerala police focus on

(a) the reduction of internet use and access to it among students,

(b) greater surveillance by parents and others of internet use by students

(c) special restrictions for girls, such as avoidance of selfies with boys and uploading their images on Facebook and WhatsApp, as well as the promotion of greater awareness of sexual touch among them and

(d) the strengthening of family communication.

“In sum, the unhappy situation is this: even as women face violence online and their right as citizens to be part of digital publics is attacked by patriarchal forces and curtailed by the judiciary, the police issues ever-more restrictive ‘codes of conduct’ which target young women and girls in particular for greater surveillance and control,” the collective adds.

Several instances of women who have faced cyber abuse in Kerala have made headlines over the past month. Most recently, Malayalam dubbing artist Bhagyalakshmi and two other women were booked for throwing ink and assaulting a man who had posted a YouTube video in which he was heard insulting feminists with vulgar and abusive language. The video titled, “Why do Feminists in India, especially Kerala, not wear underwear” has a man identified as Vijay P Nair, abusing prominent women including poet Sugathakumari.

In another instance, actor Anaswara Rajan, an 18-year-old in the Malayalam film industry was abused by men after she posted photos of herself wearing shorts on her Instagram. Soon after this, actors from Mollywood lent their support to Anaswara and posted pictures where their legs were shown. Actors Rima Kallingal, Nazriya Nazim and others supported the ‘Women Have Legs’ online campaign which was started after the incident of online harassment faced by Anaswara.

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