Women, Baby Bumps and Social Media Police

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Recently a social media post shared by Nepali actress Priyanka Karki became a huge controversy among netizens. Karki posted several pictures of her pregnancy revealing her baby bump which went viral across social media. Her pictures garnered mixed reactions from the viewer’s, although negative comments outweighed the positive. In her support, thousands of women shared their baby bumps online. Karki, received even death threats, body shaming and moral policing. While some commended her courage and congratulated her for her new journey, many shamed her for spreading vulgarity.

Priyanka Karki has been known to be a bold actress of the Nepali film industry. As an actress, she has never shied away from either bold statements or breaking social stigma. Her Instagram and Facebook pictures tend to receive lot of attention too. Her Instagram pictures receive likes ranging from 30,000 – 60,000 per post. As a social media influencer, she has always posted pictures of her private and professional life but the unwanted negative comments around her pregnancy pictures somewhat shows the mindset of Nepali people.

It represents the deep rooted patriarchal mindset of the so called Nepali educated class and how a picture of baby bump threatens their morality. There is nothing wrong with a woman enjoying a special period of her pregnancy and sharing the bits of it in her social media account. She has shared countless bikini and erotic pictures through her social media. Those pictures were widely liked by many and were re-posted as body goals and inspiration. Although the sexualization of her pictures for the male gaze was widely liked but her pictures of the journey of motherhood have received a swarm of negative remarks. This type of behavior from audience threatens the right of a person and her freedom to choose what she wants to share with others. This also shows the hypocrisy of Nepali society, where women are always objectified as a compliment to man’s needs and motherhood is something that is compulsorily expected. But when a woman tries to embrace and enjoy each moment of her own choice and live in her own terms, the society’s social media police get agitated. Women have always been judged by the life choices they make. People are used to seeing women as a side and subtle character whose features are defined by silence and submissiveness. A woman who breaks barrier and lives in her own terms is seen as a threat by the conservative gate keepers of patriarchy.

Many similar cases of cyber bullying and harassment have been reported in Nepal. But due to the lack of laws relating to it all the cases are handled under Electronic Transaction Act under which there is provision of jail term up to five years or fine up to Rs. 20,000 but the implementation of this act remains questionable.

Many celebrities and famous personalities have also supported Karki by posting the pictures of their own pregnancy. Manushi Bhattrai, daughter of Baburam Bhattrai has also posted the pictures of her pregnancy to support Karki and she too has received much negative attention. Former TU professor Om Gurung when taking about the rise in violence against women and girls, has commented that women and girls are at high risk of violence due to the lack of seriousness of the authorities and due to their own exposures and activities in social media.

The harassment of women in digital age seems like the effects of the systematic and historical oppression faced by women since ancient time along with a way to take out the daily anger and frustration of one’s life. The world is moving forward in many aspects, there are certain groups or people who are taking it further with the choices they make whereas there is a certain group that always denies accepting that change and they want the world to remain where it is. However no matter how conservative or reluctant to change some are, we cannot deny the fact that the world is changing and it will continue to change no matter what.

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