Safoora Zargar, a student of Jamia Millia Islamia University, was arrested on April 13 for her alleged role in organising anti-CAA protests in Delhi and the Delhi riots. She, along with several other anti-CAA activists have been detained under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, as responsible for the communal violence in Delhi.
It was brought to the attention of the public and the authorities that Zargar is currently in the second trimester of her pregnancy. Zargar’s counsel’s request for bail has been rejected.
Slanderous Trolling Of Zargar
Soon after the news of her being pregnant was out, Zargar was subjected to a flood of vicious slander and trolling.
From questioning her marital status, to shaming her morality – the tweets and comments online have been a tirade of personal attacks on Zargar’s character. One tweet reads, “she must have forgotten to use a condom.” Another talks of how the father of the child will be unknown.
When she was initially assumed to be unmarried, her having a baby outside of marriage, her virginity, and “loose” morals, were mercilessly attacked and shamed by people. When evidence of her being a married woman surfaced, she was accused of adultery and her fidelity to her husband was questioned.
Clearly Zargar cannot win in this shameful tirade. More than being aimed at her, it seems to be aimed at what she represents.
Zargar Represents Women Who Have Historically Been Shamed
In 2020, when Deepika Padukone took a political stand at JNU, the backlash included attacking her fidelity and relationship with her husband.
In 2019, when Atishi Marlena ran for elections, a smear campaign aimed at dissuading people from voting for a “prostitute” who slept around with politicians, and was a “blob on the society”, was circulated.
In 2015, when Megyn Kelly questioned Donald Trump about comments he’d made in the past, he responded by calling her a “bimbo” and talking about how she was probably on her period (“you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her… wherever”)?
Way back in 1536, when Queen Anne Boleyn failed to produce a male heir, she was sentenced to death under unfounded accusations of having sexual affairs with male members of court and “bewitching” the king.
Women who have strayed from the conventional or been bold enough to speak up against the establishment, have historically and chronically been degraded, punished and shamed.
Safoora Zargar’s case is another addition in a long list of women punished and slandered for refusing to be passive.
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If a woman chooses to draw any attention to herself, scrutinising and shaming her are considered fair game.
Their worth is tied to their sexuality, and any attempt to assert their worth results in an automatic questioning and shaming of their sexuality.
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Whether the anger that Zargar has inspired stems from disagreeing with her political stance, or generations of patriarchal misogyny being embedded in people’s minds, attacking someone’s character and personal decisions are never okay. Not only is it a reflection of how deeply instilled our regressive attitudes towards women are, it is also a political tactic that distracts people from the real issue at hand.
What we need to learn is how to express opinions, listen to those of others, and have a debate, without resorting to putting the other person down through slander and bullying. Only then will we create a safe enough space for constructive conversations, and only with constructive conversations can we progress.
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