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Online harassment of women is global

18:28 May 28 2015 Lahore, Pakistan

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The problem of online harassment is global, and across the world, young women are most at risk. A 2014 Pew survey found that 65% of Internet users ages 18 to 29 had been the target of online harassment, with young women suffering disproportionately high levels of online violence. Twenty-six percent of women aged 18 to 24 reported being stalked online and 25% had suffered online sexual harassment. Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency says it investigates hundreds of cases of online sexual harassment each year, and say that many more likely go unreported. But in a country where more than 1,000 women are murdered in so-called “honor killings” each year, and a woman is raped every two hours, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, online threats of harm can contribute to a culture of real-world fear.

One student in the Lahore audience, asking to remain anonymous, describes how she was duped into befriending a man on Facebook who subsequently launched a vicious stalking campaign. “He took a photo of me and my sisters, pasted our faces onto naked women and posted the doctored photos online,” she says. “He sent me the links and threatened to show my family.” Gripped by panic, she canceled all her social media and email accounts and digitally sequestered herself to avoid further contact.

Such cases are why Dad has been lobbying for a comprehensive Cybercrime Bill since 2009. Although the government is finally considering one, it contains few protections and actually “writes a blank check for abuse and overreach of blocking powers,” according to a joint statement from the DRF, Human Rights Watch and others.
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