In 2018, many Indians were outraged by international news agencies calling India the most dangerous country for women with regard to sexual abuse. However, it's been two years since and it seems not much has changed with yet another rape threat video going viral.
Stand up comedian, Agrima Joshua was forced to share an apology on social media a joke she made on Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj a year ago in one of her videos. She was also forced to take down the video after state home minister Anil Deshmukh instructed police to take legal action against the comedian. Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik also demanded “strict” action and alleged that the comedian had “insulted” the warrior king in her video.
Within a day of the old video making the rounds on social media again, another video started going viral--one of a public rape threat against Agrima. In the video, a man can be seen giving an open rape threat to the woman using crass language in order to intimidate her. The man has been identified as YouTuber Shubham Mishra.
I ve instructed CP Mumbai and IG Cyber to take legal action expeditiously ..I urge everyone to maintain calm and law will take its course. https://t.co/laFCARvKUC— ANIL DESHMUKH (@AnilDeshmukhNCP) July 11, 2020
In the now-deleted video, Agrima had said, "This Shivaji statue is an amazing masterstroke by Prime Minister Modi Ji. It will have solar cells which will power all of Maharashtra…It will also have GPS tracker…"
According to news reports, even the cafe in Khar West, Mumbai, where the video was shot had to deal with vandalism and their names and personal information were spread out on social media. The cafe issued a statement that said, "To put forth a message, we devote our lives to finding creative expression. Not towards acts of barbaric violence or mindless sharing of violence."
While some on Twitter are supporting her on social media, others are saying that she crossed the line by joking about the Chhatrapati Shivaji statue.
While the debate of free speech has two sides--if we say comedians have the right of free speech, can we say that people who are criticising her don't? Well, criticising is one thing but giving rape threats to someone is just unacceptable and also illegal.
The video is vile, abusive, scary, and yet not surprising. We've seen this happen to comedians and artists online especially females--it seems like openly giving out rape and murder threats to another person has become so common on the internet. I think most of the time we forget that there's an actual person behind the screen.
As per NCRB 2018 data, 33,356 cases of rape were reported across the country out of which over 93 percent were committed by persons known to the victim. It even said that one case of rape is reported every 15 minutes in this country (and these are just the ones reported.)
Videos and more importantly this mindset shows that no matter how much we may progress in terms of women's rights and freedom, India continues to be a country where women have to constantly live in fear and apologise for just being themselves. While people who issue open threats to their safety roam scot-free.
Featured image: Instagram