Trigger warning: Rape and Sexual Assault
Recently, as a response to a performance of Nepali version of Chilean flash mob ‘A Rapist in your Path’ translated as ‘बलात्कारी होस् तँ’, a Facebook Group called “Raper Association” was created, where the members of the group, explicitly threatened and normalized rape, celebrating the crime, and making insensitive jokes regarding it. This is not new. Similar kind of ‘digital bro club’ was also tackled last June where the members of a sub Reddit called ‘Nepali Babes’ in Reddit sub group used pictures/videos of women without their consent to sexualize and objectify women and girls.
These types of group on digital spaces replicates the offline misogyny and patriarchal values of entitlement and objectification. We realize that this is not a single/individual case, rather a systemic issue of online violence targeted towards women and gender diverse folks. The personal has always been political. The personal harm caused to women and other marginalized group by these groups are enabled by the political internalization of misogyny by the legal institutions, corporations, the state. This is the result of the continuous need to control women, their bodies and their choices by the authority in offline spaces.
Internet should be safe, equal and open space for women and queer folks. These types of groups in online spaces threaten the active participation and access of the space by marginalized communities which further leads to self-censorship of expression, self-govern their online presence curtailing to their right to access. They are fueled by curbing women’s autonomy, agency and a constant need to regulate and govern women’s presence, their bodies and conduct in digital spaces. A feminist internet demands the rights to access internet while simultaneously feeling safe.
Furthermore, pointing out the responsibilities of platforms like Facebook, Reddit which allows such content, groups and pages to exist and amplify. The procedure of reporting online targeted violence is very ambiguous. As corporation continues to profit off our engagement in social media, it is high time that these very corporation takes the responsibility to make it safe for everyone to access. These types of repeated ignorance towards the harm aimed at minorities is speaking volumes about the values and priorities of social media corporations.
Rape is a very sensitive and triggering topic. Because of the societal construct, it has been always linked with a women’s worth and hence crime about rape is directly linked to a woman’s dignity. Having the audacity to joke about sensitive topics like rape, sexual violence shows the extent of how the platform, the state, the authority has enabled these types of behaviors, through their blatant ignorance.
The group as of now, has been taken down. But, these types of groups exist across different platforms in different forms, maybe private. Albeit the dread of being a possible targeted victim of online violence, we need to resist with everything we have. We can have solidarity and come together to report such groups and pages – to the platforms as well as the authorities.