Successful women usually come under attack, and online attack is the latest weapon unleashed on them.
Recently, a “manufactured” sexual photograph of a young woman from Garissa County who has declared her interest in the Woman Representative seat went viral on social media.
A few months ago, a fake sex tape of a popular Woman Rep was shared on social media.
The incidents occurred in the wake of Kenya joining South Africa, Nigeria and Tanzania in enacting a cyber law to combat increased reports of online bullying of women.
In May 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act 2018. Previously, violence against women meant rape or battery but now it occurs online.
Emerging online crime is threatening hitherto safe and secure spaces, reducing women’s ability to use the internet for empowerment or development. Cybercrime affects women differently from the way it affects men.
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Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) statistics show there are more than 50 million internet users in the country.
While the growth of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and social media use have been seen as positive for a country lagging behind in development, cyberbullying has caused nightmares for women, the majority of the victims.
The National Assembly has enacted, revised or is working on legislation targeting technology-related violence such as cyber espionage, revenge pornography, pornography and false information.
With many cultures placing much emphasis on female chastity, cyberbullying — a growing form of gender-based violence — is a serious threat to women.
Its sharp rise and normalisation has made internet use a gendered issue. Social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat and Twitter are the most common places for online bullying.
A baseline report by Kenya ICT Action Network (Kictanet) on the challenges Kenyan women face on the internet says online harassment hinders their full participation.
It lists non-consensual distribution of intimate images, sexual harassment, stalking, hate and offensive comments as the most prominent violations.
Women’s online sexual harassment, surveillance, unauthorised use and manipulation of personal information, including leaked images and videos, are a prominent in the Kenyan cyberspace.
It takes subtle and blatant sexist or misogynistic approaches that often develop into physical or sexual threats.
This is the general trend across Africa. A 2016 study by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) indicated that online societies judge women politicians more harshly than they do the male ones.
On social media, women politicians were on the receiving end of sexist comments with their appearance and marital status often being the subject of discussion in gauging their ‘fitness’ for public office.
To curb cybercrime, the government needs to recognise technology-based violence as an issue of national importance.
There is also a need to unify the disparate voices working on these issues and lobby together.
Make internet service providers and intermediaries responsible and have them proactively pull down content, as they do with child pornography.
There is also a need to educate women and girls on how to protect themselves online and to create awareness of the types of threat women face on the internet.
Ms Siyad is a human rights crusader based in Garissa County. [email protected]