By Bashir Bello
KANO—A non-governmental organisation known as Centre for Information Technology and Development, CITAD recently raised the alarm over what it described as rising cases of technology-assisted gender violence in the country.
The Centre’s Executive Director, Engr. Yunusa Ya’u expressed worry over the menace while addressing newsmen in Kano.
Engr. Ya’u, however, decried the deployment and use of technology to perpetrate gender violence to the detriment of the concerted efforts being made to address and overcome the gender dimension of the digital divide in the country.
According to him: “We welcome you to this press conference on an issue of national importance. This is the issue of technology-assisted gender violence. By technology-assisted gender violence we mean the way in which technology is deployed specifically to harm women and girls, including harassment online, rape, kidnapping and killing facilitated via interaction and use of digital technology.
“Within the past two weeks, we have two very disturbing contents on the internet, both of which degrade and dehumanise women and the individuals involved. The first was a posting of sexual escapade of students of Chrisland, Lagos in faraway Dubai which went viral, leading to the suspension of academic activities in the school.
The second concerned a lady in Ado-Ekiti who was invited to a hotel room by her friend who had arranged with his three other friends and not only gang-raped her but also posted the act on the internet.
A third case in which a lady was kidnapped for money occurred earlier last month in Abuja when a man the lady befriended on social media invited her to his hotel, only for him and his friends to kidnap her, demanding N50million from her parents as ransom.
There have been many other such cases in which social media friends lured their female friends only to rape them and in some instances, kill them to cover up the crime.
“Cases of young girls falling victims of this technology- assisted crime have been on the rise and are contributing negatively to the efforts to address and overcome the gender dimension of the digital divide in the country, which casts women on the negative side of the divide, making it difficult for them to access and make use of the opportunities and benefits digital technology offers for educational advancement, economic empowerment and social inclusion.
“CITAD has for the past five years been engaged in monitoring and countering gender violence online and take this very serious, because we have in an earlier research found that gender-based violence online has been a major factor inhibiting the effective use of digital spaces by girls and women in the country as they have internalised the fear that harmful content online has induced in them. In another research, we found that harmful content online is targeted at female politicians and women in careers such as female journalists and academics, with the aim of discouraging them from those spaces, thus furthering their marginalisation in those spheres.
For example, female politicians are subjected to social media abuse and intimidation and that in many cases, they were forced to drop their political ambitions because of this. In addition, parents and husbands are also using the same excuse to prevent their daughters and wives from using the internet. Unfortunately, in the world we live today, we must all make use of the internet.
“In all these cases, it is the country and society that suffer from this criminal misappropriation of the powers of the internet. As learning, commerce, social interactions and government services move online, it means that those left behind digitally or are unable to access and use the internet, will equally be left behind in those other spheres. Women constitute slightly more than half of the population of the country. As majority of these women remain offline as a result of gender violence online and other harmful contents, it means that a large population of Nigerians is left behind. In this situation, Nigeria cannot achieve the sustainable development goals as most of them require effective deployment and use of the internet.
“It is for these reasons that we at CITAD take the issue of technology-assisted gender violence online as a serious national problem, that the government has to consider and take necessary action to address it.
“We note the recent empanelling of a Committee by the Federal Government to study and propose solutions to ensuring the protection of children online.”