July 11, 2021
Women’s rights activists express solidarity with victims, tell govt, tech companies to ensure that internet is a safe space for women
NEW DELHI — Some prominent Women’s rights activists have condemned the online targetting of Muslim women by putting them on ‘auction’ on Github, a software development platform. Through a joint statement, they have expressed their solidarity with the victims of Hindutva bigots and demanded safe online for women while urging the government and tech companies to ensure that action is taken against those who are responsible for “such acts of terror and intimidation”.
More than 80 Muslim women, most of whom are vocal on social media, were recently profiled and “auctioned” to be sold as “slaves” of Hindu men. This triggered a massive outrage on social media leading to filing of a police case.
“This is a targeted hate campaign against Muslim women in India and abroad. It amounts to sexual harassment, criminal intimidation, and cyber stalking. It violates their right to privacy, which is a travelling right, and it is an act of censorship. It puts their life and liberty at risk,” the statement said signed by Ghazala Jamil, Pratiksha Baxi, Navsharan Singh, Ayesha Kidwai and Uma Chakravarti.
Expressing concern over the “new forms of intimidation” faced by Muslim women, they said that the sexualising of Muslim women by Hindutva men is fast becoming mainstream political culture.
“This criminal use of social media uses openly misogynistic hate speech against minority communities and celebrates a rape culture against Muslim women targeted for their religious identity, and therefore, impacts the dignity of all women.”
The activists urged the big tech companies to develop policies to prevent their users from treating women as objects and de-humanizing them.
Following is the full Text of the statement:
We, the undersigned women’s rights groups and concerned individuals are outraged by the reprehensible targeting of Muslim women on GitHub, a free Web platform, where Twitter handles, and photographs of Muslim women were uploaded with the explicit aim of directing sexualised hate and harm at these women. More than 80 women were profiled, their images were sought to be “auctioned” by soliciting users to take their pick on the “deal of the day”, on the basis of their identity and for their views. This is a conspiracy to target women by creating a database of those Muslim women journalists, professionals and students who were actively raising a voice on social media against right-wing Hindutva majoritarianism. The intention is to silence their political participation.
This attempt to de-humanise and sexualise Muslim women is a systemic act of intimidation and harm. This is not the first time this has happened. Before Eid, similar cyber violence against Muslim women was organized by stealing pictures of Pakistani women from their social media handles.
This is a targeted hate campaign against Muslim women in India and abroad. It amounts to sexual harassment, criminal intimidation, and cyber stalking. It violates their right to privacy, which is a travelling right, and it is an act of censorship. It puts their life and liberty at risk.
This is a targeted campaign to regulate their political speech and political participation in democracy as full and equal citizens of this country. It is part of the project to push Muslim women out of public spaces, offline and online, by causing them harm and censoring their speech. Having witnessed the leadership and power of Muslim women in the anti-citizenship movements, right-wing Hindutva men have used social media as a political tool to deny Muslim women their right to lead our collective fight for secularism, peace and citizenship.
We are deeply concerned that everyday new forms of intimidation and hatred are being allowed to invent, this time through GitHub Inc., a provider of Internet hosting for software development, to normalise violence against Muslim communities. Such use of public platforms is making the impunity for such attacks more entrenched. Twitter handles, YouTube channels and Facebook pages are routinely used to de-humanize and sexualise Muslim women. The men on these handles, channels and posts call upon majoritarian Hindutva nationalist men and mobs to abduct and rape Muslim women. These handles routinely spew pornographic abuse for both Muslim men and women and build online communities through chat boxes and posts to create violent online communities. This criminal use of social media uses openly misogynistic hate speech against minority communities and celebrates a rape culture against Muslim women targeted for their religious identity, and therefore, impacts the dignity of all women.
The use of sexualised political campaigns against women who speak against the ruling dispensation is fast becoming mainstream political culture. Such mass targeting of Muslim women in public spaces, whether online or offline, that treats them as objects in the political discourse of Hindutva is simply unacceptable. As the large number of such online hate violence surfaces, it is not abstract, this is real life for women – a violation of their human rights, an attack on the dignity, autonomy, and bodily integrity.
The undersigned express our grief and outrage to all the Muslim women harmed by this misogynistic hate campaign.
We stand in solidarity with each one of these women.
We pledge our support to them.
- We condemn the political campaign of hate against them, and we demand immediate action against the culprits.
- We demand that the internet be a safe space for women to express dissent and difference.
- We demand that commercial portals develop policies to prevent their users from treating women as objects and de-humanizing them.
- We demand that the cyber cell, social media platforms such as GitHUb, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook and the National Commissions for Women and National Human Rights Commission must at once take prompt action against the individuals who are responsible for such acts of terror and intimidation.
- We demand equal citizenship and political participation in offline and online spaces for Muslim women.
- Pratiksha Baxi
- Navsharan Singh
- Ayesha Kidwai
- Uma Chakravarti