In a move welcomed by women, especially active users of social media like Facebook and Twitter, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi announced on Tuesday that women being harassed on Twitter should post complaints using the hashtag #IamTrolledHelp or mail grievances directly to her. These complaints, said Gandhi, would be forwarded to the National Commission for Women (NCW). The organisation would also monitor instances of trolling and online abuse of women.
“Are you a woman who is trolled or abused? Inform me at email@example.com,” Gandhi tweeted.
The Minister’s tweet was in response to a recent incident where singer Sona Mohapatra was trolled by fans of actor Salman Khan after she spoke out online about his remarks comparing rape to a tough filming schedule.
“This particular troll who harassed the singer online came to our notice this morning. We have contacted Twitter and got this person off it,” Gandhi told The Indian Express. “There is too much filth online. I have asked the NCW to put a person in charge of tracking such trolls.”
Writer Aparna Jain, who had filed a report with the cyber cell after receiving rape threats from an anonymous Twitter account in 2014, told Times of India: “I’m glad someone has noticed that this is a real problem. But what will be done once they receive a complaint…does one need to go to the cops anyway?”
Since NCW is authorised to act like a civil court when investigating matters related to women’s rights, Supreme Court advocate Karuna Nundy thinks the volume of complaints is likely to be “enormous.” “If NCW asks the police to register an FIR, it is more likely to be taken seriously,” she said.
Ironically, the Minister herself was trolled after her tweet, as scores of male users began to make digs at her, demanding “gender equality.” Singer Abhijeet, who had been accused of abusing journalist Swati Chaturvedi online only recently, tweeted: “I’m a man, a son, a dad, a bro trolled n abused by lady presstitute & her Paki frnds abused my nation whom to contact?”
Maneka Gandhi has spoken on the the subject of online abuse previously too. In May this year, she said the government was looking strongly at “viciousness against women on the net,” which, according to her, should be treated on par with violence.