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Women and girls are embracing internet platforms to jointly mobilize and amplify their voices against social injustices, riding the new wave of digital activism. An example is the recent #MeToo and #TimesUp movement against gender-based violence, which has garnered global traction. However, following the above wave, activists and groups have been targeted by sexist cyber-attacks and became one of the top news in Pakistan.

The internet will not be able to remain an open and democratic space until everyone who wants to express themselves on the platform can do so without fear of harming their safety or well-being. This necessitates consideration on how we might collaborate to make the internet a safe platform for everyone, especially for women and girls.

Silencing Voices

Women's voices and movements being silenced is not a new phenomenon, but it has been magnified by the digital media. Online harassment frequently has offline consequences and effects, as evidenced by numerous studies. For instance, here is a few top news from Pakistan: Defamation charges and a severe online response faced by Meesha Shafi for calling out a male coworker for harassment, misinformation campaigns, and false blasphemy allegations made against the organizers of Pakistan's annual Aurat March, and the terrible murder of social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch.

Women and girls' meaningful online involvement can be severely harmed by online violence and hate speech. According to a recent World Wide Web Foundation consultation on online gender-based violence, online abuse can “silence, discredit, and censor women's voices online” and may push women to abandon digital spaces completely. According to the report: 

“If this issue is not addressed urgently, the web will remain as one more medium in which women, and particularly women from marginalised communities, are attacked and have their voices suppressed, instead of being the platform that amplifies gender equality and spearheads positive change that we know it can be”.

Leisurely Progress On Digital Rights

According to research conducted by the Digital Rights Foundation in Pakistan, the moral policing of women and gender minorities in online spaces is a significant element in the continuation of online violence and hate speech. While action against cyber-violence and online hate speech is getting momentum in developed countries and much slower in developing countries. The European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Digital Services Act provides citizens with more control over their data. Even within the European Union (EU), variations in definitions and methods of internet harassment across member states are challenging to take coordinated actions.

Roadmap For A Safer Internet

As the world becomes more digital, it is becoming even more critical to increase efforts to improve online safety so that everyone may benefit equally from the benefits provided by the internet.

However, more understanding and visibility about online gender-based violence is required. This can be accomplished by sponsoring scholars, gender activists, and organizations working in relevant fields, as well as by forming special interest groups focusing on digital and women's rights. Advocacy should also focus on holding governments and business parties accountable for defending users' and citizens' digital rights.

Institutions and regulations intended to protect the digital rights of citizens should be enhanced. Professionals, academics, and practitioners should be trained in internet governance, with a focus on cyber-security and digital rights. This should involve sharing information on existing projects, legislation, and data protection measures.

Final Words

In recent decades, the internet has become a lifeline for citizens. However, it will only prosper if everyone has an equal opportunity to take advantage of the opportunities it presents and to have their opinions heard without fear of their safety, dignity, or privacy being threatened. We can make the internet a safer and more inclusive digital platform for everyone if we work together.

For more updates on hot topics and current affairs in Pakistan, follow Pakistan Observer. The best websites for all the latest news in Pakistan.



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