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Manipur, India, internet shutdowns: stop shielding abuse against women

Content note: the following post contains reference to sexual assault, abuse, violence, sexism, misogyny, and murder.

After over 100 days, authorities must immediately end internet shutdowns in Manipur, India, that are shielding atrocities including murder, rape, arson, and other gender-based attacks and sexual violence

As India celebrated its 77th Independence Day on August 15, people in Manipur, including women and girls, continued to be deprived of freedom. Through an open statement, Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition are calling on all levels of Indian government to stop implementing internet shutdowns during times of crises, and invest in alternative, long-term solutions to achieving accord during turmoil.

Women have every right to feel and be safe. When authorities in Manipur shut down the internet and blacked out the world’s windows, they created a space for men to perpetrate disgusting, criminal acts of gender-based violence against women. The internet shutdown lifted a global curtain that protected some and left others to hang out and dry. The government must step up and commit to never being complicit in such grave acts of brutality again, and build safer, more inclusive online spaces for all — particularly women and girls. Felicia Anthonio, #KeepItOn Campaign Manager at Access Now

Clashes broke out in the Manipur region in May, and on May 3, authorities shut down mobile internet, following the next day with a broadband shutdown. These internet blackouts have provided ongoing cover for the continued community violence and vicious assaults, information which was not exposed internationally until July, while also interrupting access to education and employment, denying people their ability to communicate with each other, and cutting access to information.

India leads the world in internet shutdowns. In 2022, authorities shut down the internet across 35 countries at least 187 times — India hit the kill switch at least 84 of those instances.

Internet shutdowns violate human rights, and help perpetuate human rights abuses. Across all levels of authorities in India, those in power continually — and with impunity — disconnect people from the digital world. This tirade of censorship and control must end. Access to an open, secure, and free internet should be available to every individual. Namrata Maheshwari, Asia Pacific Policy Counsel at Access Now