In yet another instance of the sexual violence threats that women face on social media platforms, Shaheen Bhatt, actor Alia Bhatt's sister, shared screenshots on Instagram of the hate messages and rape threats that she and her family have received.
Shaheen shared these screenshots from her Instagram messages inbox on Monday, and also warned of legal action against the abusers. One of the screenshots that she shared in her Instagram stories showed a user saying that they wished death for Alia and the siblings’ father, Mahesh Bhatt. The message then goes into a graphic description of further ill wishes. The other screenshots include wishes for sexual violence against Shaheen and her mother, Soni Razdan Bhatt.
In the subsequent stories, Shaheen pointed out some statistics of the prevalence of violence against women as well as suicide.
“Does this surprise you? Why? It doesn't surprise me,” Shaheen wrote in the story where she shared the screenshots of the messages. “We live in a country that seems to relish nothing more than rendering people powerless. A country that relishes 'putting people in their place' and showing them their 'aukad'. And who better to put in their place than a woman?”
“A country where rather than being raised on empathy, most people are raised with the explicit permission to hate. A country where a woman is either your mother, your sister, your wife or a whore. A country where not just men, but women feel like the worst thing you can call another woman is a slut,” she added.
"Because what better way to render a woman powerless than to make her ashamed of being a woman. Ashamed of being herself. Because if she weren't a woman would she still be debased, humiliated and threatened with violence and violation every day? Would she so casually be robbed of her security and sense of agency? You see. It's genius. You abuse her. Yet, you try to convince her the problem is her. Not you,” Shaheen wrote in another Instagram story.
Shaheen also said that she had been unsure about whether to address the abuse or not, for days. She eventually decided to, because to create a world where women are treated as ‘humans’ and not just objects of sexualisation and misogyny, she had to draw boundaries in her own life and pursue action no matter what, Shaheen said.
Addressing those sending her hate and threats, Shaheen said, “If you send me a message with the sole hope (I say hope because I promise you -- nothing you say is keeping me up at night) of humiliating, insulting, or bullying me, then the following things will happen:
-- The messages or comments will first be blocked and reported to Instagram directly.
-- You will forfeit the right to your privacy. I will NOT protect your identity. Every sh**ty message you send me will -- should I choose to -- go up for everyone to see. Abusers are emboldened by their anonymity. I will not help hide you.
-- I WILL use all legal recourse available to me to take action. If you think you can't be located because your account is anonymous, please think again.
-- IP addresses are easily trackable. You are not invisible. Harassment is a crime.”
Shaheen's post comes at a time when the Bhatt family — Mahesh Bhatt, his daughters Pooja and Alia Bhatt and mother Soni Razdan — are being targeted on social media for nepotism in the film industry. This started after actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death last month, reportedly by suicide.
Shaheen, who is a writer, also addressed Instagram in her story and wrote that the platform should include “misogynistic slurs, intended to subdue and oppress” under its zero tolerance community guidelines. Referring to ‘advice’ to turn off message requests or disable comments to avoid getting hate, Shaheen said, “Asking me to change the way I use a platform because of someone else's hatred and misogyny is the equivalent of telling me that if I go out at night and get assaulted 'I was asking for it'. I should not have to change the way I use a platform if someone is being abusive. They should. Full stop.”