URGENT ACTION NEEDED TO ADDRESS THE GROWING ONLINE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS IN SOMALIA

While more people make their way into the internet, it is no surprise that the amount of electronic violence against women also rises and it is not a new phenomenon on the world but is dealt as part of violence and discrimination that women and girls face offline and online throughout their lives. While awareness rising about using secure and safe Internet is not common in Somalia and there is limited data on online harassment and violence, the problem is often overlooked in discussions of violence against women and is not perceived as a serious form of violence or an issue in Somalia and women do not often speak about online harassment and violence.

The recent speculation and heated discussions over a video showing the private parts of a young girl posted and distributed in the social media without her consent is one of hundred similar cases that our organization recorded in 2020. A survey that was conducted by Bareedo Platform Somalia in one state in Somalia found that 49% of the surveyed women had been stalked and harassed through the messaging apps with 39% said their online accounts have been hacked at least one time and 33% more than once. Furthermore, 78% of the surveyed women believe that online harassment consequences are worrying and can lead to suicide, physical assault, emotional distress, women leaving education and online spaces in response to the damage of their reputation or fearing for their personal safety and while this happens, not many know how to prevent it with 66% said have little understanding of the kind of protection or guidelines that the social media platform offers against the abuser due to  poor digital literacy and language barrier.

When online harassment occurs, many victims feel vulnerable and are unaware of the actions that they can take to address the issue or unfamiliar with the ways that they can report complaints and due to this, it is increasingly critical for women to develop cyber security skills, learn about online threats and how to protect their information and devices, support women in developing the skills and knowledge they need to ensure they are secure and empowered digital citizens. Furthermore, recognition of online violence against women together with offline violence as a larger barrier for women and girls in exercising their full range of human rights is needed and we are requesting the relevant stakeholders to take the necessary measures to keep internet free from rising threats and make it a safe place for women and girls in Somalia.

If someone tries to blackmail you by threatening to publish private photos or videos of you or know someone is at risk of immediate harm, please contact our Digital Help Desk for technical assistance:- Email: Digitalrights@bareedo.org or Secure Email: Desk252@protonmail.com.