In the last decade or two, India has become more progressive in accepting women into various empirically male-dominated careers such as journalism. Unfortunately, India’s oppressive society has found a way to try and give women reasons to avoid pursuing this job: rape threats and slut-shaming. The cases involve a female journalist exposing corrupt practices of politicians through factually-based research and then facing rape threats or being slut-shamed endlessly. The issue is that the followers lack the proper refutations for arguments made against their beloved politicians, so they find no other option than resorting to oppressive and demeaning approaches that target the journalists themselves. Their flawed ideology is contingent on the notion that a woman wearing a low-cut shirt and short shorts can’t possibly be a credible source for information (a widely popular belief in Indian society). When they fail to successfully stop the release of articles through this method, they use rape threats to scare the female journalists from publishing further articles.
Rana Ayyub, in an article for the NY Times, writes about this harmful conduct that several prominent politicians and their followers are guilty of. Ayyub published a book in 2016 called the Gujarat Files directed towards analyzing riots in Gujarat and other government-related coverups of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. She expresses that the firsthand threats and slut-shaming comments she has received seem to stem from,
“…an apparently coordinated social media campaign that slut-shames, deploys manipulated images with sexually explicit language, and threatens rape. Mr. Modi and several of his ministers embolden the virtual mob by following them on social media.”
In addition to being accused of supporting child rapists, having a pornographic video with her face cropped in flooding the internet, seeing various messages urging others to gang rape her, and being encouraged to pursue prostitution, she emphasizes how various BJP leaders continue to follow and even support those guilty of committing these acts.
Ayyub is one of several cases in which the threats and comments female journalists face become psychologically unbearable. Given the myriad of ways she was targeted, even the less severe and therefore often under-reported cases seem impossible to imagine.
Approximately 40 confirmed cases of murders of various female journalists in India have been reported since 1992. These cases do not take into account the unconfirmed motives of the murderers of Indian female journalists or the sexual harassment cases faced in-person or online. No wonder India falls at the 138th rank out of 160 countries on the World Press Freedom Index of 2018.
In order to mitigate the emotional and physical abuse female journalists in India face, a few important approaches need to be taken. The first and obvious issue is that prominent politicians like Narendra Modi need to face consequences for continuing to follow and encouraging various citizens guilty of slut-shaming and threatening female journalists that publish articles they disagree with. Additionally, we need to tackle the root of the problem instead of encouraging female journalists to block all messages from their followers or displaying various sides of the issue.
The same Indian “nationalists” that take pride in our democratic nation are undermining the values by disallowing freedom of the press to be exercised by journalists throughout India and it’s time to put a stop to it if the nation wants to preserve its democratic ideals.