How to combat online misogyny

LAHORE: The Last Word hosted a session in collaboration with the Digital Rights Foundation to raise awareness on online harassment on Saturday.

The talk was titled ‘Call to Action: Online Misogyny in Pakistan and How to Combat It’. The panel had Susan Benesch, a faculty associate of the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society, Harvard University, and director of the ‘Dangerous Speech Project’, Nighat Dad, founder of the ‘Digital Rights Foundation’ and Nabiha Meher Shaikh, a member of the ‘Pakistan Feminist Watch’.

Some of the important points that were raised during the talk included how misogyny was a cultural problem but the people end up shaming individuals because of it, especially in the retrospect of the recent events in Pakistan. Another point raised by the panel was that patriarchy was so deeply embedded in the society that people didn’t even realise when they were involved in it.

Ms Nabiha talked about how a woman’s body had become a symbol of national honour and there was urgent need to raise a voice against it.

Ms Susan shared her expertise on the matter, saying the governments and online platforms were not capable of dealing with such issues.

She gave examples how societies themselves had dealt with the issue.

She talked about how people had reacted to the comments of the Turkish deputy prime minister, who tried to define ‘a proper woman’ by saying that women should not laugh out loud in public. There was an ‘explosion’ of pictures of women laughing on social media along with a hashtag that went viral, causing a negative impact on the political campaign of the Turkish deputy prime minister, she said.

Mr Jahanzaib Haque, editor of the DAWN.COM, joining the discussion, said 70 to 85pc of all Pakistanis online were male and thus turned the debate towards how to get internet access to more people that could lead to a better way to deal with the issue.

He suggested using media groups to fight misogyny as they had the power to change mindsets faster.

He said the solutions to the problems like misogyny were not only limited to digital world but required solid steps to be dealt with as “internet is a reflection of society”. — Moneeza Burney

Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2015

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