On Friday, the Women in Cinema Collective or WCC ended their two-month-long social media campaign against cyber abuse titled ‘Refuse The Abuse’. What started off as a campaign among female actors within Mollywood on October 2 has now resonated with people from different fields, emboldening the conversation on the issue which does not often get the attention it warrants.
Ending the campaign on a high, WCC core member and filmmaker Anjali Menon said that the campaign and the conversation has “now gone beyond the collective.” “It was initially planned as a week-long activity to create a forum for women to speak their thoughts about cyber abuse. But the campaign evoked a tidal wave of responses, which is when we realised that more people wanted to speak," she told TNM. More interestingly, the campaign has sparked multiple synergies with individuals, public intellectuals, women's right advocacy groups, IT groups and others, who together are finding solutions and expanding the conversation on cyber bullying.
From the start of the campaign, over 60 individuals, including those from and outside of the film industry have spoken out against cyber-harassment and abuse in videos. Beyond the videos compiled by WCC, several people across genders have articulated their views on the issue in visual formats.
"We have had men join in the conversation as well. This includes Siddharth, music director Govind Vasantha and director Benyamin. All of these people felt that it was important to speak up against cyber bullying and decided to lend their voices to the campaign," Anjali added.
As a result of the online initiative, several legal organisations, IT groups and women's rights advocacy groups have collaborated with WCC to find solutions such as stricter implementation of existing laws, improved conviction rates, and better facilitation of complaints and redressal.
"We had filed a petition in the Kerala High Court on getting organisations to comply with the POSH Act, to set up committees and conduct complaint redressals. While our petition was focused on political parties and media institutions, WCC filed another petition for the film industry. This is how both our organisations got in touch and started exchanging ideas. While we use law as a tool to address cyber abuse, WCC is using their creative energies to highlight this topic," says Sandhya Raju, Director of CCRRA (Centre for Constitutional Rights, Research and Advocacy), a non-profit that uses legal systems to empower women and disadvantaged sections of the society. Sandhya adds that discussions on violence against women in cyberspace in various forms were held, which includes "hate speech, rape threats to actual morphing of photographs of women etc.
Not just CCRRA, the organisations such as IT for Change, Citizen Collective for a Safe Cyberspace, advocates Harish Vasudevan, Shyam Padman associates, legal expert Vinod Bhattathiripad etc. have also collaborated with the collective on finding solutions to addressing cyber abuse
Further, journalist and poet KR Meera too held a session with members of the collective about her perspective on the 'cyber mob and its relevance in gendered aspects of society'. "There was a discussion on the research paper titled Malayali in Cyberspace authored by J Devika, Chithira Vijayakumar, Darshan Sreedhar Mini, Resmi PS and Elizabeth Alexander which was insightful," Anjali says.