On International Women’s Day this year, a group of five people launched Chokhri.com a site that aims to bring offline or anonymous conversations about sexual health, harassment, abortion, and other issues online. The platform is currently running a 60-day campaign via its Instagram, Twitter and other social media, called #chokhristalk, which includes candid video testimonials from 30 women and men.
All respondents answered similar questions about sexual health and wellness, for example about the HPV vaccine, annual pap smears and other things.
Rashi Wadhera, the founder of Chokhri.com, told VICE she came up with the name of the site to try and reclaim the term, which she said is often used in a pejorative way to denote women of “loose” character. “'You cannot stop them from trash talking,” she said, “so just own the word.” Besides Wadhera, who has worked as a media professional, the Chokhri team currently consists of a developer, a web designer, an illustrator, and a marketing and events head.
One of Chokhri.com’s major initiatives is to geographically map incidences of rape, abortion and sexual health issues, workplace harassment, and sexual assault. Wadhera specialised in data journalism and computing in college, which gave her a familiarity with Google API and data mining.
As a features writer for the Indian Cosmopolitan magazine, she found herself preoccupied with how sex was covered. “Sex is great, everyone should be having it and be talking about it,” she said, but felt “there is a responsibility” missing from the general discussion.
Hard data, Wadhera felt, was the way forward. She recognised that some sites, like safecity.in and hidden-pockets.com are already working at the intersection of data, geo-mapping and gender issues. “These guys do awesome work and I don't view anyone as competition,” Wadhera said.
Since launching, the Chokhri team has mined publicly available data about incidents of violence against women from social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. Wadhera told us this data is “vetted,” and, “in terms of sensitive information, it definitely is gets verified by at least three different sources” before being mapped in this still nascent project.
Even with the #metoo movement, women tend to hesitate before naming a perpetrator. Wadhera hopes her project encourages people to raise their voices. “I don't wanna force anyone, cause that’s their journey,” she said. “But it’s interesting to watch. I might literally be molested by a man who didn't think twice before touching me in the middle of an effing party. But I’m scared to take his name in a post.”
Even with the existing video testimonials, Wadhera told us Chokhri was "inundated by creepy dirty messages in our inbox, courtesy the nature of the content. The girls started getting filthy messages on boosted posts.” She’s not surprised that people are also texting her on the listed number. “I'd rather inbound is directed at us as a company and not at these girls who volunteered their time,” Wadhera said.
She added that it’s “very challenging to collect data. But, ok, we'll get there.”
And on the way, Chokhri might mobilise a conversation among people across gender boundaries, as her site states, “to amplify our voices, enhance agency, and attempt to quash the current feminist rhetoric”—in order to evolve it into something better.
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