Adeela Hameed

A Look into Online Molestation in Kashmir

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Are Our Children Safe?

In this age of online lectures and Google wisdom, almost everyone depends on the internet for knowledge. With everything it has to offer, the online platform is bugged with its own dark side. People create social media accounts in throes, on pretext of staying connected to each other, and sharing lives. Why did I use pretext is because nobody actually cares what you do online. Most platforms are born to satisfy curiosity, pass time day after day to overcome boredom or to spy. Not everyone who has an Instagram account is out there to spread information or provide knowledge. Many accounts are created to stalk and prey on innocent victims. Nowadays, abuse doesn’t just occur in crowded subways or buses but on the web too, where the abuser shares a private online space with his/her victim.

Two decades ago, children in Kashmir were unaware of the internet boom or social media. Their only playground was offline, toys were shields and abuse mostly unknown. Comparing the scenario to what kids are exposed to at present, children of the 90’s era were protected and safe in their tiny bubble. With iPhones, online games, playstations, and a variety of gaming consoles in picture, children today are prone to violence and abrupt change in behaviour. What’s even more worrying is that their psychological conditions are accepting all of this as normal adolescent change, which definitely isn’t. Young girls are introduced to the world of unrealistic beauty standards, making them question their physical appearance. They consequently fall prey to body shaming and developeating disorders like bulimia. Although both genders are bare to the trap of online bullying and molestation, but obscenity is encouraged and advocated mainly towards teenage girls. Being unaware and for the want of followers, most of whom are predefined stalkers, our young generation continues to behave rashly, not considering consequences of their actions, and eventually sinking into the abyss of blackmail.

Almost all junior high and senior high school kids in Kashmir own a phone. It may come as a surprise to many that online molestation in the Valley has crossed boundaries ages ago. Recent reports incessantly declare that schoolgirls, with an active social media account, have been reported to receive obscene and vulgar texts or photographs by contenders of online abuse. Without any provocation, girls are subjected to blackmail or indecency beyond comprehension. It is notable to mention that most victims are below 18 years of age while the offenders usually range 20 and above. It is disheartening that many older men, of marriageable age, find social media profiles of young girls palatable enough to dedicate their time and energy instead of finding a suitable partner to wed.

Parents are usually unmindful of every little or large abuse their daughters might be facing. Just because discussing these issues is a taboo in many Kashmiri families (read ‘all Kashmiri families’), the whole situation, if it arises, is pushed under the rug, never witnessing the light of day. What’s ridiculous is that many girls continue unabatedly and feel this sort of thing happens to everybody and hence is not a big deal.

The scenario of online molestation continues without interruption just because our young people are not informed to stay away or protect themselves, or are discouraged to talk about abuse. Whatever happens within closed doors, online and without a physical trace, is as though it never happened at all. People have forgotten accountability, providing undue freedom on the pretext of beingprogressive, but suffering at the end. What will definitely happen is that in the future, people will forget sensibility or respect as a result of being bullied, turn into depressed victims or vicious abusers, and continue the cycle of self-destruction beyond repair.

Although it is mandatory for children to learn online, given the present scenario, it is equally important to make sure they are kept under proper surveillance and care, for their own protection. Many might feel the idea of surveillance is redundant or an ancient practice, but timely parental guidance and good interference in the lives of young teenage kids can and will save lives.

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