WARNING: Such creepy comments on her photo will get you a long date with police. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Cheers to the cyber laws for being the real match-maker!

If you are a woman living in India, you know that messages like this one by creeps on Facebook are a daily affair. Most of us usually choose to ignore them, but where does one draw the line? So, my colleague Dikshie Auntie few months back received this crappy text.

She gets monthly dose of such texts because she talks openly about SEX, carries an opinion and fights the conversations of society not like a “regular sanskari woman”. So all the guys out there let me make it clear that if she is talking about sex then that isn’t an invitation to share bed with her much like if a doctor talks about AIDS openly then that doesn’t mean he wishes to infect himself.

Women are routinely threatened with sexual harassment online. This is not normal but it has been normalised. Imagine if someone at your workplace walked around with a knife saying, “I would love to see you undress”. Would that be acceptable? No! But somehow the equivalent behaviour online is treated lightly, dismissed. Harassment can and does cause people severe anxiety and panic – it prevents people from being able to lead a functional, happy and productive life. It adversely affects people’s mental health and quality of life. But somehow people are expected to look past all of the abuse and threats and function without interruption.

In an attempt to understand the approach of the two genders towards things, I figured out that women, at any given point of time, have a 100 different things running in their minds. For eg. Uploading a picture online-

Puts up the picture if it looks nice.

Wonders if people will judge her for putting the picture
Worries that a random guy will just start stalking her
Changes her privacy setting
Worries about someone making a lewd comment.
Worries about someone misusing the picture
Wonders if the picture is too revealing

But some curious head might ask- even if someone writes lewd comment, how exactly is that the crime? I mean, people have called me slut on my face but that didn’t constitute a crime then why posting slut on my timeline is a crime?

Cyber space is a public space which is accessible to all. Thus, writing anything on my timeline is like announcing it to the world.

But what, exactly, is cybercrime? When our digital space is invaded with sexual harassment, violent messages, and threats; when our private data, information, and photographs are exposed, it feels like it should be against the law. And VOILA, it is a crime Under Information technology act, 2000. But nobody taught that in school because studying history of Akbar was important af.

Just because a woman exists in virtual world and loves to share her pictures doesn’t give anyone any right to exploit her virtual or physical self. So, is her body a shrine? No, shrines can be desecrated. Shrines are built by someone else and modified to please the men who create them. Her body is a city. It has layers and layers of cacophony and history. They build themselves up every time they’re demolished to the ground, despite the odds of the same. That’s what her body is, a city. And to enter in this city by any means (online or offline) you need my consent. CONSENT HAS TO BE SOUGHT, FOR INITIATING ANYTHING SEXUAL, NOT JUST SEX.