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Cyber-Violence Is A ‘Real’ Threat To Women & It’s About Time We Take It Seriously!

With cases like the 'Bulli Bai App' coming into the picture, it's high time that we take cyber-violence against women seriously!

Opening a new account on any social media platform is damn easy, but are the consequences of being on social media ‘ideal’? Ask yourself!

Finding your DMs brimming with thirsty messages from random people, friend requests from people you don’t know, seeing creepy comments on your pictures, all this makes you believe how easy it has become to harass people. And being a woman active on social media platforms, I can tell you that the situation gets even worse for us.

The developments in technology are acting as catalysts in creating a new world of gender-based violence. Online gender-based violence is not a new phenomenon, but it is a continuum of violence that women face offline. The root causes of all forms of gender-based violence are the same.

Gender-based violence has been described by the World Health Organization as a global public health problem of epidemics proportions and a fundamental violation of human rights. New forms of gender-based violence have emerged with the help of technological advancement that turns into cyber violence against women, which is spreading rapidly and poses a significant risk.

Normalization of cyber-violence is not letting us understand its intensity…

My heart aches to say this but we ourselves have normalised cyber-violence. It has become OKAY for us to read comments like  “looking cute babe”, “you look hot”, or receive messages like “hey dear”, “Why are you not replying to my messages, where have you been, I saw you in a café, you were in black dress”, on Facebook and Instagram. And after being getting ignored for days, they start calling you “bitch” and “slut” and start abusing you here and there and start threatening physically. Are you feeling the intensity of the threat because you don’t know this person, or because he knows A to Z about you?

While there are no formally recognized definitions, academics, researchers have tried to define this technology-based violence against women. Research by Association For Progressive Communication defines technology-related violence as encompassing acts of gender-based violence that are committed, abetted, or aggravated in part or fully using information and communication technologies such as phones, the internet, social media platforms, and email.

There are certain types of cyber-violence against women

  • Trolling: – The act of leaving an insulting message on the internet in order to annoy someone.
  • Cyberstalking: – Cyber stalking is the use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, group, or organization
  • Morphing: – Morphing is a special effect in motion pictures and animations that changes one image or shape into another through a seamless transition.
  • Clone ID: – A cloned account is a copy, that uses your profile photo and other public information to trick your friends into giving up their information.
  • Hacking: – Hacking is an attempt to exploit a computer system or a private network inside a computer.
  • Revenge Porn: – Revenge Porn refers to the sharing of explicit or sexual, images or videos, without the consent of the person in the image.
  • Voyeurism: – Voyeurism is defined as an interest in observing unsuspecting people usually while they undress, are naked, or engage in sexual activities. The interest is usually more in the act of watching, rather than in the person being watched.

Cyber-violence is not only a psychological and emotional threat to women but also an infringement upon their autonomy to express themselves!

In July 2020, the World Wide Web Foundation found that we face a parallel pandemic of cyber-violence, with 52 per cent of women reporting having experienced some form of online abuse, and 87 per cent of the belief that the problem of cyber-violence was getting worse. Cyber-violence has severe impact on women’s well-being, affecting them psychologically, emotionally, and socially. They could even face financial and economic loss because of the violence. This is also the reason why many women deactivate their accounts and stop expressing themselves on online platforms. This hinders women’s free expression. The violence which takes place on an online platform is a powerful force leading to women’s self-censorship.

The Khap Panchayat and other such groups have said that women should be kept away from technology because it is not good for them. Victims have been blamed that they should behave ‘maturely’. They are made to understand their limitations and refrain from posting their photos, thoughts, etc.

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Not recognizing cyber-violence as serious violence will put society and future generations at risk!

Executive director of the UN WOMEN, Phumzile Nlambongcuka expressed her apprehensions that because of this hostile online culture women would restrict themselves from the internet due to the pervasiveness of cyber violence. To be disconnected from technology in the 21st century would be like having your freedom disrupted, your right to work, your right to meet people, your right to learn, your speech freedom being infringed.

So, if women become so intimidated and traumatized from such experiences, they should understand that it is the whole world that will be lost to them. Internet is being cored as a social structure and a crucial platform for active citizenship and voice and agency.

By not recognizing cyber-violence as serious violence, we will be putting society and future generations at risk. Doing this makes them more vulnerable to violence and harassment. In a world where they should not be expected to disengage, this violence is restricting their freedom of movement, their right to express, their right to choose. With cases like the ‘Bulli Bai App’ coming into the picture, it’s high time that we take cyber-violence seriously!

Image Source: Still from Mental Health and Human Rights Info Website

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