India hurt by ‘organised swarms of gender trolling’


Sushma Swaraj
Sushma Swaraj

FOREIGN MINISTER SWARAJ TARGETED AFTER PASSPORT ROW INDIA’S foreign minister has spoken out on abusive tweets directed at her, a move welcomed on Monday (25) by women journalists and campaigners who say they routinely battle rape and death threats on social media. Online trolls targeted Sushma Swaraj, the most senior woman in In­dia’s government and an active Twitter user, after she helped a Hindu-Muslim couple who accused a passport official in her department of discriminating against them. Most of the abuse was from Hindus who accused her of “appeasing” the Muslim community by not taking the official’s side, and called for her to be removed from the government. “Had she been India’s daughter, she would have put nation first. But she is a secular Visa Aunty,” read one tweet in Hindi. Women applauded Swaraj for speaking out after she took to Twit­ter last Sunday (24) to expose the trolls. “These are organised swarms of gender trolling. It has the approval of someone, somewhere,” Kavita Kris-hnan, an activist with the All India Pro­gressive Women’s Association, said. Twitter trolls have attacked both men and women critical of prime min­ister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), but activists say the attacks against women are particularly vicious and can include rape and death threats. Dhanya Rajendran, editor of digital newspaper The News Minute who was trolled last year by fans of an actor whose film she had criticised, said the targeting of Swaraj showed how far the trolls were prepared to go. “People are not even scared of a sen­ior minister who is among the top four of the Indian government,” she said. Online abuse and harassment pres­sure women and girls into censoring themselves on social media and makes them fear for their physical safety, with many withdrawing from public con­versations, rights…

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