Violence against women and children in cyberspace

Published : 31 May 2019 07:42 PM | Updated : 07 Sep 2020 02:33 PM

Online hara­ssment and cyber-bull­ying is a growing global problem.  The news of frequent victimization of women in cyberspace is not surprising indeed especially in a country like Bangladesh where most of the online users are amateur in computer literacy. Cybercrime is a relatively modern phenomenon in Bangladesh and can take many forms. It is diverse and ever evolving. Women are often lured by hoax messages and fake identities in social media and they fall prey to offenders in cyberspace as well as the real world.

 Cybercrimes that are commonly prevalent in social media are cyber obscenity pornography, cyber stalking, hacking, cyber defamation, and privacy infringement. According to the Cyber Security and Crime Division of DMP, 70 percent of cyber crime victims in Bangladesh are women and this highlights the vulnerability of women in Bangladesh no matter where they go, what they do, and how they dress and speak.

Over the last few years, the developments in technological innovation along with their easy accessibility have instilled a positive paradigm shift in the way we live. With the consequences of such a paradigm shift, cybercrime has emerged as a curse of the electronic age. Born in the lap of new technological innovations and their intense intervention in every aspect of our life, cybercrime has become the talk of the time, thereby, cyber security—a demand of the time.

Because of sheer lack of awareness about cyber crime, thousands of online users are becoming victims of cybercrimes. The numbers of such victims are increasing day by day. Experts assert that the main challenge in dealing with such cases and arresting the culprits is the delay in reporting to police. Many victims do not want to go to the law enforcers fearing that their identities would be revealed.

On the other hand, children and adolescents also fall prey to cyber crime so easily. Reportedly, more than 32 per cent children who have access to internet face online harassment. A widespread intervention of technology over the years not only has changed the way our children used to behave, think and interact but also reshaped the entire system in which they live. Here children are increasingly getting afflicted to the usage of internet and thus internet is occupying a key part of our children’s growing up while helping them develop an identity and connect with the virtual world. Children’s access to technology poses both negative and positive impact. 

 The virtual world helps children to exploit a new communicative paradigm. Today’s children are able to ascertain between competing facts more accurately and make decisions more quickly. But using internet is not always safe for children and there has to be a guideline for children to make them able to utilize internet potentially for the betterment of their intellectual development.  

The internet is the great equalizer giving equal access to information and educational content to young learners. Hence, ensuring safer internet should be the first and foremost priority for guardians, teachers and everyone involved in the ecosystem.

According to the Cyber Security and Crime

 Division of DMP, 70 percent of cyber crime

 victims in Bangladesh are women and this

 certainly highlights the vulnerability of

women in Bangladesh no matter where 

they go, what they do, and how they dress and speak

Cyber-bullying and online-harassment can cause profound harm as it can reach a wider audience and can remain accessible online indefinitely. However, we can reduce the chances of online violence and cyber-bullying by ensuring strict implementation of the cyber security law. It is good to note that the government formed Digital Security Agency for overseeing the overall cyber security for protection of children from being harassed and sexually abused, through appropriate utilisation of laws and updating them as per the need. 

Now what is needed is to build awareness about the impact of cyber-bullying and online harassment among the parents, teachers and children. Capacity building of children, teachers and parents for identifying, preventing and responding cyber-bullying and online harassment is a must.

Also a guideline should be incorporated to teach not only students but also the teachers on how to be responsible and safe towards their activities over the internet.  Besides, for preventing sexual abuse on online, the country’s law enforcing agencies and other government and non government organizations should arrange seminars to make people conscious about online sexual harassment of children.

It is not easy to wipe out cyber crimes from the cyber space. The only possible step is to make people aware of their rights and duties reinforcing the application of laws to check cybercrimes. Moreover, people need to be sensitized about the problem. As cybercrime is an emerging threat and no one is fully secure these days, emphasis should be given on how we can control cybercrimes with continuous monitoring and act accordingly. 

In this regard, we need to quickly frame an appropriate and updated cyber security policy, create adequate infrastructure, and foster closer collaboration between all those involved to ensure a safe cyberspace for women. Women are today and in the future going to be the main victims of cybercrime in Bangladesh. This is both threat and opportunity for legislators and those working to protect women in physical as well as cyberspace. 

S H B Shuvro is  a member of the editorial team, Bangladesh Post.

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