The internet, although has been a boon to humankind, comes with its own cons. One of them is cyber harassment. More often than not, women are victims of cyber harassment – and this is especially true is South Asian countries.
A recent research conducted by the Digital Rights Foundation in Pakistan made a disturbing discovery.
40% of women who took part in the survey had been harassed or stalked online by men. Since Pakistan’s internet users are predominantly male, women get harassed online a lot more than you would imagine.
Almost 70% of the internet users in Pakistan are male. The study was done with 1800 women across Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Gilgit in the year 2016.
Let’s recall Qandeel Baloch’s murder by her own brother. Qandeel was a rising social media star and had a huge fan following online. Her brother and her family did not approve of her lifestyle, which led them to kill her, and was considered an honour killing.
This is not the only incident. In Pakistan, women are harassed online and offline. Hamara Internet’s research on women’s experiences of online violence found that 70% of women are afraid to post photos online as they think that they could be misused. About 3/4th of the women who took part in the research had no idea about the laws against cyber crime in Pakistan. The research also highlighted that there needs to be more awareness among women about the laws that are in place to protect them.
When asked if these women have witnessed a girl being bullied online by men, 55% of the respondents agreed with the statement. This just shows the grave conditions of the online world in Pakistan.
While there have been a lot of cases of harassment, blackmailing, stalking, one of the examples that the study uses is a Facebook Page that blackmails women for extortion. The study says, “The “Gangdageer Khan” Facebook page is a prominent example of a page where women’s information can be leaked to cause them harm, blackmail, harass and force them to give up their own or other women’s personal data in return for safety. This particular page resorted to extorting women into giving money, providing phone balance, other women’s pictures and more in exchange for having their data removed.” The page was removed by FIA, and the people responsible for it were caught, however, the information still exists on other Facebook pages today.
Although more and more women are questioning their safety online, there still needs to be more awareness about cyber harassment, bullying, stalking, blackmailing and more. The women of Pakistan need to feel safer online, and this can be only done if more awareness is created and studies like this one are available for them to read.
Some discoveries by the study:
40% women agreed to have been stalked online in Pakistan
72% women did not know the laws against cyber-harassment in Pakistan
51% said they had received unknown or lewd messages from men online
23% women said that someone had made a fake social media profile of them
21% women stopped using the internet after being harassed