Gender advocates and experts have highlighted ways that online violence against women in politics can be curbed.
They made it known at a webinar organised by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Meedan to launch a report titled the ‘Interventions for Ending Online Violence Against Women in Politics’ on Thursday.
At the event, Catherine Gicheru, Founder of African Women Journalism Project noted that online violence against female politicians manifests in different forms such as cyber trolling, name calling, manipulation of their pictures and sexualisation of their bodies etc.
As such, she urged women politicians to fight to keep their presence in a male dominated space despite the online intimidation.
“We need men to understand online gender violence as a social phenomenon. Majority of the online trolls are young men who are mobilised to spread this hate and they have moved from online noise to kidnapping the female politicians”, she said.
Ms Gicheru proposed the creation and empowerment of informal networks that can support female politicians and push back against the online trolls.
She complained that social media platforms have not done enough to stop the online menace or discard posts that convey the hate speeches.
“These platforms should take responsibility for what is on their platforms by including in their terms and conditions measures against cyber bullying”, she advised.
She noted that the media can equally join the advocacy to stop the violence against women by calling out the trolls and not trivialising the attacks.
Shymla Khan, the Director of Research and Policy of Digital Rights Foundation who also spoke at the event suggested that Political parties have a code of conduct that includes punishment for deterrents.
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“Political parties need to set some sort of example. Also, Women within the party should advocate for the code of conduct”, Ms Khan said.
She further advised social media organisations to provide context on different types of cyberbullying on their platforms so that their algorithm can flag down posts that convey the online attacks.
She also proposed thorough sensitisation of young persons who are used as trolls to stop spreading hate attacks online.
A 2016 data collated by Inter Parliamentary Union from 55 female parliamentarians in 39 countries revealed that 81.8% of the respondents were affected by psychological abuse which include threats of death, rape, beatings or abduction. Social media is the number one place in which psychological violence is committed against women in politics.
Meanwhile, the NDI report on the recommendations culled from global experts can be found here.
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