Day 5: Online harassment & cyberstalking | Map it. End it. Demand change

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sexual harassment is a constant reality that women and girls all over the world have to deal with - from when we walk down the street, to catching a bus, to being at work, to checking our phone. Sexual harassment creates a world where women and girls are hailed as sexual objects, and acts to control, force conformity and to silence. It narrows the spaces where we are able to participate freely and fully as equal members of society, and impacts on our ability to access education and jobs. It can also have a devastating impact on mental and emotional health and well-being.

Mobile phones, social networking spaces like Orkut and geolocation tools like Foursquare have helped us stay connected with each other. At the same time, they have been used by abusers to  keep track of networks, friends, movements and activities. Mobile phones are the most popular tool used for this. Some have dubbed this “textual harassment”. Increasingly the lines between offline and online violations are being blurred and offline activities are being tracked and monitored using technology. Countless women all over the world have received harassing SMS messages and become fearful of being watched by people who mean them harm.

According to wiredsafety.org, groups who are most frequently targeted are women, young people, people new to the internet, minority group members (such as ethnic or sexual minorities communities) and special ability groups. They are exposed to harassment  because of who they are, the choices they have made or because they do not conform to the abusers sense of how they should be.

Take Back the Tech! Women and girls are fighting back, and taking control of technology in powerful ways to counter sexual harassment, and to challenge, disrupt conventional notions and re-draw the landscape of women's realities online. They are texting support messages, mapping abuse online to build evidence, speaking back on blogs and other spaces creating digital stories to speak truth to distorted images of women, and more.

Here are some inspiring actions:

Adventures of Salwa
www.adventuresofsalwa.com
Salma's a handbag-wielding no-nonsense defender of harassed women. This Lebanese online comic shows situations where abuse occurs, complemented by a blog where contributors discuss the situations, and a handbook on how to combat sexual harassment. It's fun, it's empowering, it's informative. The site is largely bi-lingual in Arabic and English.

Apps Against Abuse
http://nwpcblog.blogspot.com/2011/11/sexual-harassment-in-technology-era.html

This post on the US National Women's Political Caucus looks at some interesting apps for smartphones that have been designed to combat sexual harassment and abuse both online and offline. While there aren't many anti-harassment apps available, this post could inspire you to help develop some new ones!

Mapping street harassment
Numerous incredible initiatives have sprung up to make street harassment visible. This includes the Egypt Harassmap [http://harassmap.org/] that aims to end the social acceptability of sexual harassment in a context where 83% of Egyptian women face it at least once a day. Hollaback! is another campaign in different countries that empowers women to "Holla Back" at street harassers by documenting the incidences as they happen. Blank Noise Project delves into the complex dimensions of "eve-teasing" faced commonly by women in the streets of India by a range of creative strategies, including calling for everyday Action Heroes to respond actively against sexual harassment.

Keep our streets, mobile phones and online spaces safe from sexual harassment. Document, make it visible and end its everyday acceptance. Mark the International Day on Women Human Rights Defenders today and join the global movement!

1) MAP IT

  • Have you ever experienced being harassed online, or through the use of mobile phones? For example, receiving unwanted and repeated messages asking you out for dates, or someone posting false information about you online with sexual undertones?
  • Name this harassment and share your story.
  • Post it on the TBTT map. Click on "Submit a report", and describe what happened, how you felt, and any response you made. You can read detailed instructions on how to submit a story.
  • You can also email us your story to: map@takebackthetech.net
  • Online harassment is real and can have the consequence of women withdrawing from online spaces. Don't be afraid, be visible online. The more we report, the more evidence we have to expose and change this situation.

2) STRENGTHEN & SUPPORT

  • Build your knowledge and skills on how to be safer online.
  • You can start by checking out the "cyberstalking" resource on the "be safe" section of this site. http://www.takebackthetech.net/be-safe/cyberstalking-and-how-prevent-it
  • And take part in upcoming daily actions that highlights online and communication practices which respect privacy and safety.
  • Show your support. Read the stories on the map and leave a comment to let the person know she is not alone, and she is heard.
  • Share your strategies on how you have dealt with online sexual harassment.

 
We can end sexual harassment. Speak your story, make it heard and Take Back the Tech!