Business Standard

Pakistan: Cyberbullying, digital violence worsens pains of working women

There is no denying that women and girls are some of the worst impacted by digital violence worldwide, particularly in South Asia.

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Photo: ANI

ANI Asia
There is no denying that women and girls are some of the worst impacted by digital violence worldwide, particularly in South Asia. On the Internet, they are especially susceptible to threats of rape and death, hate speech, and sexual harassment. Women are assaulted, threatened, or defamed on online social media platforms every single day, The Friday Times reported.
The United Nations defines gender-based violence as "violence that is intended against a woman because she is a woman or that disproportionately impacts women."
This includes harm to one's body, sex, or emotions. Cyberstalking, cyberharassment, and cyberbullying are examples of gender-based cybercrimes. Avoiding hate speech, sending unpleasant online messages, and making lewd and abusive approaches on social networking sites have all been characterised as these offences.
According to a report in The Friday Times, for those who are affected, the rising tide of misogynist hate and violence is terrible. Yet internet corporations and legislators continue to disregard it, giving copyright more importance and protection than they give people and our online rights.
So when did cyberviolence start to spread in Pakistan? Why did it take place? Who should be held accountable? Many stories, including those of journalists Asma Shirazi and Gharida Farooqi, include countless responses to all of these concerns in various forms. When will digital violence end is a crucial issue that needs to be asked. Can it be stopped? And will someone have the fortitude to put an end to it? Exists a complaint resolution process?
We must all work together to find the answers to these problems.
We used to claim that there were thousands of comparable cases of online aggression and violence in Pakistan several months ago, but now that there are millions of examples, it is difficult to pick out the ones that are noteworthy.
According to The Friday Times, online harassment against women journalists in Pakistan, including trolling, cyberbullying, intimidation, and doxxing, is still on the rise. More than ever, it is crucial that media organisations, unions, and other stakeholders collaborate to raise awareness of the problems encountered by media professionals and provide assistance for female journalists who experience harassment and other forms of abuse.
The Economist Intelligence Unit reports that 85 per cent of all online abuse against women occurs globally. The proportion of women who reported online harassment and violence threats from their personal and professional networks is fascinating in this survey. Women reported being victims of other women at a rate of 65 per cent, whereas 35 per cent of women said they had specific encounters with online abuse. According to this survey, the victims of digital abuse are primarily women who work in some kind of vocation.
A renowned Pakistan journalist Gharida Farooqi shared her experience of the global epidemic of online harassment with The Washington Post, as cited by The Friday Times.
For the victims of these harassment situations, the price is far lower regarding loss and reduced status. Thousands of female intelligence officers from all over the world have had their voices muffled and, in some cases, completely ignored. They still have to work hard to maintain their positions.
As she is observing the iddah time, intelligencer Javeria Siddique, the late journalist Arshad Sharif's widow, too broke her silence by writing a piece on the disdainful trolling and social media crusade. Javeria claims that the harassment campaign by pixies and political activists is punishment for supporting her spouse. She said, "My spouse is no longer with us, but I am; yet, some people want to bury me alive."
Like in Pakistan, the question is whether Javeria will still be equally accountable to fulfil her domestic duties and journalistic obligations in this society in the same way that she did when her spouse was by her side.
A study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, cited by The Friday Times, found that 78 per cent of women lack access to a reliable organisation to report internet abuse. The survey found that 62 per cent of women experience feelings of helplessness despite having veritable plenty of options for addressing this issue.
Journalist Tanzeela Mazhar repeatedly brought a case of online abuse to court in 2017, pleading shrilly for justice. There was a case of harassment against a PTV employee that was repeatedly successful. PTV is controlled by the government.
Even so, imputation panels are in operation, but women are still unsure of their ability to receive justice inside the confines of their institutions. Gharida compared online harassment to digital violence in an interview, saying that she had been harassed, pursued, and threatened with rape and murder. Her bogus prints have consistently been shown on social media and pornographic websites. Similar incidents of mistreatment of female journalists are reported everywhere. After all, why are women more likely to become victims of online harassment? The absence of justice in Pakistan is one of the key causes of this. Women cannot knock on the door of justice due to the court system's complexity.
Women are discouraged from filing formal complaints because they are required to visit the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Office and provide their CNIC number, phone number, and father's name.
Based on real-world experiences and examples, the issues of online harassment and violence are highlighted in this report. Women have been struggling with the consequences of online assault for years while looking for relief in a variety of ways. The campaigns and initiatives to increase women's accessibility on digital platforms need to come to an end.
A journalist from central Punjab named Saddia Mazhar has suffered from mental illness for numerous years as a result of cyberbullying. In a phone chat, she said that a fake Facebook ID with her images and personal information had been uploaded online.
Saddia, on the other hand, protested to the FIA Office in Islamabad, stating that "The complaint subject was that I want the IP address of this false Facebook account so that I can be watchful and careful of this individual in the future." After almost a year, the FIA acknowledged in an email that they lacked the technology necessary to identify a bogus Facebook account's IP address.
After pestering institutions for more than a year and a half, Saddia eventually received information from their pals and denounced the false profile to Facebook authorities. And within three to four days of the complaint, all of her information was removed from the fictitious Facebook account.
Despite all the precautions, warnings, and consequences, there is just one basic piece of advice she gives to everyone: while allowing their kids access to the internet, parents should teach and train them about the morals of using social media.
Finally, we need strong, concrete, and harsh rules - of course with strict enforcement - regarding the use of false and dual accounts for cyberbullying of any type against anyone. Institutions should take action against criminals in addition to creating legislation to deal with cyber violence. If the nation's security agencies fail to stop this horrible crime, they must be appropriately punished, The Friday Times reported.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Mar 16 2023 | 1:08 PM IST

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