Friday, June 5, 2020 | ePaper

Online abuse against women impedes gender equality attainment

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A sense of fear and helplessness gripped twenty-one year old university student Sazida Parvin (not real name) as some obscene photos of this young girl were posted on her facebook's lifeline.
A student of BBA in a private university of the city, Sazida came to know from her friend about posting of her vulgar photos on facebook from a fake account using her name. Her friend informed her (Sazida) that a facebook was running by someone with full address of Sazida.
This is a story of a Mirpur girl who had to go through untold sufferings when unidentified hackers opened a fake facebook ID using her name, address and photoshopped pictures to run vulgar contents.
Arpita Dey (not real name), 23, a student of a private university, has over 1,100 facebook friends and around 2500 followers. One day, she woke up getting a phone call from her close friend.
Terrifyingly excited the friend asked whether Arpita had posted any nude photos on her timeline or not. A cell phone number was given for personal contact.
Arpita instantly tried to deactivate the facebook ID. But the vulgar contents by that time went viral in different filthy facebook groups and foul pages. Being frightened, she switched off her cell phone and stopped going to varsity. The girl became mentally sick.
There are several incidents like Sanzida and Arpita faced.
The abuse women face in these virtual spaces has in many ways left them feeling vulnerable.
In fact, the number of sufferers is huge, but most of the incidents are suppressed by the victims' families fearing further social harassment.
Official sources said around twenty thousand complaints have been lodged by the sufferers with Cyber Help Desk under ICT Division in recent months. Of the total complaints, about 75 per cent are facebook related crimes, mainly harassment of women by creating fake facebook IDs.
Presently, the facebook has been widely used for committing sexual abuse against women, particularly adolescent girls. Generally, in the case of broken relation, the men start blackmailing by sharing intimate photos and videos on the facebook, they said.
Former secretary of BTRC (Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission) Sarwar Alam said: "If the allegations come through the law enforcement agencies it becomes easy for us to deal with the crimes. In this situation, we can take steps as per desire of the concerned agencies."
However, if anyone personally files any complaint, the commission also can show him or her a way out.
Sources in the law enforcement agencies said, the teenage girls most of the times do not understand when the photos or videos of their intimate moments were taken.
Online abuse against women violates their human rights and is thus an impediment to the attainment of gender equality.
Women who experience abuse or harassment on social media platforms feel a sense of powerlessness after experiencing online abuse.
Online abuse needs to be taken seriously and it often has the potential to spill into physical and abuse and violence.

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