Foto: Lea Meraku
Gjatë fushatës ndërkombëtare në vazhdim “16 Ditët e Aktivizmit kundër dhunës me bazë gjinore”, e cila zhvillohet çdo vit nga 25 nëntori deri më 10 dhjetor, Alternativna ka për qëllim që të kontribuojë në rritjen e vetëdijes dhe nxitjen e reflektimeve mbi dhunën me bazë gjinore.
Prandaj, ne jemi të lumtur të publikojmë pesë esetë më të mira fituese të konkursit të Akademisë së Dialogut për Gratë e Reja (AD) Alumnae Network. Kjo nismë e udhëhequr nga AD Alumnae synojë të inkurajoj të rinjtë që të reflektojnë në mënyrë kritike mbi çështjen urgjente të dhunës ndaj grave dhe vajzave (VAWG), duke kontribuar në diskutime konstruktive mbi aspektet gjinore.
Autorja e esesë në vijim është Lea Meraku, ajo është studente e AD nga Prishtina, e angazhuar në mënyrë aktive në avancimin e ndryshimeve pozitive shoqërore në nivel komuniteti dhe lokal.
AD është një program i përvitshëm, dhjetë-ditor, i organizuar nga Misioni i OSBE-së në Kosovë në bashkëpunim me Misionin e OSBE-së në Serbi, që mbledh së bashku 24 vajza të reja nga Prishtina/Priština dhe Beogradi. Objektivi kryesor i programit është të krijojë një rrjet të grave të reja që mund të kontribuojnë në avancimin e dialogut dhe ndërtimit të paqes brenda dhe në mes të shoqërive.
Pas përfundimit të AD, pjesëmarrësit bëhen pjesë e Rrjetit AD Alumnae, i cili sot numëron më shumë se 200 anëtare. Alumnae AD janë të angazhuara dhe kontribuojnë rregullisht në një sërë çështjesh të rëndësishme, siç është fuqizimi i grave dhe të rejave, paqja dhe siguria e grave dhe të rinjve, dialogu brenda dhe ndërkomunitar, etj.
Me këtë rast, Alternativna është e lumtur t’u ofrojë Alumnave të AD një platformë për të përforcuar zërat e tyre në VAWG, e cila fatkeqësisht mbetet shkelja më e përhapur dhe më e shpeshtë e të drejtave të njeriut në mbarë botën.
Alternativna dhe alumnat e AD janë TË BASHKUARA për të ngritur vetëdijesimin dhe për të ndarë njohuritë për t’i dhënë fund VAWG-së njëherë e përgjithmonë!
Pikëpamjet e shprehura në këtë ese janë vetëm ato të autorit.
Tokom tekuće međunarodne kampanje „16 dana aktivizma protiv rodno zasnovanog nasilja“, koja se održava svake godine od 25. novembra do 10. decembra, Alternativna ima za cilj da doprinese podizanju svesti i podstakne građane da razmišljaju o rodno zasnovanom nasilju.
Zadovoljstvo nam je da objavimo pet najboljih, pobedničkih eseja na takmičenju Alumni mreže Akademije dijaloga za mlade žene (DA). Ova inicijativa koju je vodila DA Alumni mreža, imala je za cilj da ohrabri mlade da kritički razmisle o gorućem pitanju nasilja nad ženama i devojčicama (VAWG), istovremeno doprinoseći konstruktivnim diskusijama o rodnim aspektima.
Autorka eseja je Lea Meraku, alumnistkinja DA iz Prištine, aktivno angažovana na unapređenju pozitivnih društvenih promena na nivou zajednice i na lokalnom nivou.
DA je godišnji desetodnevni program koji organizuje Misija OEBS-a na Kosovu u saradnji sa Misijom OEBS-a u Srbiji, koji okuplja 24 mlade žene iz Prištine i Beograda. Glavni cilj programa je uspostavljanje mreže mladih žena koje mogu doprineti unapređenju dijaloga i izgradnji mira unutar i među društvima.
Nakon završetka DA, učesnici postaju deo DA Alumni mreže, koja danas broji više od 200 članova. Alumnistkinje DA su angažovane i redovno doprinose nizu važnih pitanja, kao što su osnaživanje žena i mladih žena, mir i bezbednost žena i mladih, dijalog unutar i među zajednicama, itd.`
Alternativna ima zadovoljstvo da omogući alumnistkinjama DA platformu kako bi pojačale svoje glasove o nasilju nam ženama i devojčicama, koje nažalost ostaje najraširenije i najrasprostranjenije kršenje ljudskih prava širom sveta.
Alternativna i DA alumnistkinje su UJEDINJENI da povećaju svest i podele znanje kako bi jednom zauvek okončali nasilje nad ženama i devojčicama!
Stavovi izraženi u ovom eseju su isključivo stavovi autora.
During the ongoing “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence” international campaign, which occurs annually from November 25th to December 10th, Alternativna aims to contribute to raise awareness and foster reflections on gender-based violence.
As such, we are happy to publish the top five winning essays of the Dialogue Academy for Young Women (DA) Alumnae Network’s competition. This DA Alumnae-led initiative aimed at encouraging young people to critically reflect on the pressing issue of violence against women and girls (VAWG), while contributing to constructive discussions on gender-related aspects.
The author of the following essay is Lea Meraku, and she is a DA Alumna from Prishtinë/Priština, actively engaged in advancing positive social change at community and local levels.
The DA is an annual ten-day programme organized by the OSCE Mission in Kosovo in collaboration with the OSCE Mission to Serbia that brings together 24 young women from Prishtinë/Priština and Belgrade. The programme’s main objective is to establish a network of young women who can contribute to advance dialogue and peace-building within and across societies.
Following the completion of the DA, participants become part of the DA Alumnae Network, which today counts more than 200 members. The DA Alumnae are engaged and regularly contribute on a range of important issues, such as women and young women empowerment, women and youth peace and security, intra and inter-community dialogue, etc.
As such, Alternativna is happy to provide the DA Alumnae with a platform to amplify their voices on VAWG, which sadly remains the most widespread and pervasive human rights violation worldwide.
Alternativna and the DA alumnae are UNITE to increase awareness and share knowledge to end VAWG once and for all!
The views expressed in this essay are solely those of the author.
Online Violence Against Women in Politics: A Threat to Democracy
Online violence against women politicians has various consequences that harm democracy. Online violence impacts women’s representation in political and other decision-making institutions. Although there are outstanding issues in controlling and monitoring such violence, at the same time, there are possible solutions to limit its occurrence in the future. The impact of online violence goes against the fundamental tenets of democracy, presenting novel challenges to states and institutions in controlling and holding perpetrators accountable. Accordingly, states and institutions must take a decisive and strict approach to these issues in order to protect women from harassment and other dangerous forms of cyberviolence.
In November 2017, the Spanish Prosecution opened an investigation into several threats, use of derogatory language, and harassment towards the former mayor of Madrid, who is a woman. These illegal activities all stemmed from one source – an online group chat comprised of local police officers.
The aforementioned case is only one of thousands involving online violence against women in political power. Due to the accessibility and wide reach of cyberspace, the Internet and politics have formed a close and largely co-dependent relationship in the past decades. Some research even indicates a positive correlation between Internet usage and political engagement in Europe. However, and worryingly so, online political discourse has also morphed into a breeding ground for gender-based violence wherein women politicians are subject to constant harassment. The statistics reflect these concerns: Amnesty International reported that women in politics are 27 times more likely to face online abuse than men in equivalent political positions. There are far-reaching and highly detrimental effects of this practice. Online violence against women politicians impairs the functioning of a modern democratic society, and as such must be treated as an issue of great importance in policy-making.
The Chilling Impact of Online Violence on Women in Politics
A major problem caused by online violence is its stifling effect on representative democracy specifically. The essence of the latter lies in the existence of appointed representatives who reflect the demographic of the society, which would of course include women from all walks of life. However, the prevalence of online violence against women especially has discouraged many from aiming toward and accepting positions of political power. One of the typical examples of this is cyberbullying of women parliamentarians, which consists of the publication of disparaging posts, messages, or other online content. These posts often contain what is termed hate speech: discriminatory language against an individual based on their inherent characteristics, in this case, hatred based on one’s identity as a woman. The proportion of such attacks is worryingly high, with the Inter-Parliamentary Union reporting in a 2019 study that more than half of participating women parliamentarians had been targeted with “online sexist attacks on social networks”. While politicians are regularly scrutinized publicly by the nature of their position, the gender-based attacks on women politicians often take on a misogynistic undertone, including discriminatory comments on women’s role in decision-making and politics.
In addition to cyberbullying, female politicians face many other forms of online violence such as cyberstalking, doxxing (wherein private information is leaked to the public), and sexual harassment. The impact of these attacks goes even beyond the women targeted, as it creates a societal climate of ‘discrimination, exclusion and insecurity’ for women in politics. In turn, women are often reluctant to take on political responsibility, facing potential reputational damage and the psychological effects of such harassment. This phenomenon is particularly detrimental toward younger generations, as for many the Internet is the first or main platform in which they engage with political issues. Online violence is arguably an antithesis of representative democracy and it hinders the creation of state institutions that are truly representative of the female population.
Navigating the Challenge: Holding Perpetrators Accountable
Online violence against women in politics is problematic not just because of its prevalence, but also its monitoring and control – or lack thereof. A general issue in holding perpetrators of online violence accountable is anonymity, which is precisely the reason behind the high volume of attacks ‘hiding behind the screen’, as users operate behind completely customizable names and private details. In this case, democratic states often deal with conflicting rights, such as the right to free speech on the one hand and protection from discrimination on the other. However, there are specific challenges in the political sphere that women are exposed to, and these will be considered in turn.
In this regard, rapid technological development has led to a series of newer forms of gender-based violence such as deepfakes, hyper-realistic images, or videos of fake events. As they are almost undetectable, they are also more prone to impact the public’s perception of the subject shown in the image or video. This technology is being used at a much higher rate to target women, including those in political power. For example, a deepfake-generated video of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi depicting her intoxicated was rapidly spread across social media, including by politicians. Understandably, concerns have already been expressed about the staggering effect of these on democracy, particularly with such content being used to humiliate and silence women politicians. Thus, new discoveries must be monitored accordingly to prevent a large-scale democratic backslide in society at the hands of technology.
Another problem with controlling gender-based violence that is especially present in politics is the misinterpretation of harmful online behavior as „exercises of freedom of expression“. On one hand, one of the pillars of democracy is the right to express one’s opinion freely. Even the law on defamation makes certain exceptions from liability where a person speaks on a matter of public interest, even if it concerns politicians themselves. But despite the robust protection of freedom of expression, such interests need to be balanced with the prohibition of other conduct, e.g. hate speech. Furthermore, the right to be free from discrimination is also essential to democracy, and as such, it must take center stage in the fight against online gender-based violence. While constructive criticism of women politicians is important for accountability, online violence such as cyberbullying or doxxing cannot find protection under the umbrella of free speech. This is especially significant considering the gender-based element of the situation, in that women are much more likely to face severe or repeated online violence. Thus, while it remains difficult to draw a precise line between the allowance of free speech and the prohibition of online violence, strict policies must be placed to ensure that one’s right to free speech is not used as an excuse to facilitate harassment and bullying.
Addressing the Menace: A Call for Proactive Measures Against Online Gender-Based Violence
The proliferation of online violence against women is concerning and relentless. While a full analysis of the solutions to these problems is beyond the scope of this article, it can be said that countries and institutions must utilize knowledge from experts in the field and stay in touch with recent developments in order to keep up with the rapid technological advancements. These policies may also include close cooperation with social media websites so that potential and ongoing risks can be identified and eliminated as soon as possible. As far as the dilemma between protecting free speech and fighting cyberviolence is concerned, a precise demarcation of permitted online activity must be set by states and institutions to ensure that free speech is not used as a justification for harassment and other online violence.
Therefore, fighting online gender-based violence requires a hands-on approach, with strict limits placed by the authorities and regular implementation mechanisms that ensure problematic cases are swiftly detected and investigated.
Unmasking the Threat
It is evident that the prevalence of online violence against women has become a significant issue in modern society. In addition to contributing to broad societal regress and reinforcing discriminatory attitudes towards women, this form of violence has a detrimental effect on democracy as well. As aforementioned, the fear generated by online violence has been a discouraging factor for women in regard to applying to or accepting roles involving political power. Consequently, this reduces women’s representation in institutions or political positions. Furthermore, democratic societies are facing the dilemma of balancing the rights deriving from public positions with other competing interests, including the right to free expression.
In summary, online violence against women is extremely harmful to democracy and the fundamental principles it protects. Its psychological impact not only dissuades individual women from engaging in politics, but the absence of regulations in these areas also creates a power vacuum that opens the door to widespread abuse facilitated by technology.
It is imperative that legislators and other politicians place the issue of online violence against women at the top of their agenda, and that they develop robust policies for the sake of protecting women’s fundamental rights and the democratic order.
- Amnesty International. “Toxic Twitter– the Psychological Harms of Violence and Abuse Against Women Online”, 2018.
- Amnesty International, “Amnesty Reveals Alarming Impact of Online Abuse against Women,” 2017.
- Appel, Markus, The Detection of Political Deepfakes, 2022.
- Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, “Fighting Sexism against Women in Politics at Local and Regional Level”, 2020.
- European Conference of Presidents of Parliament, “Women in Politics and in the Public Discourse What Role Can National Parliaments Play in Combating the Increasing Level of Harassment and Hate Speech towards Female Politicians and Parliamentarians?” 2019.
- Fry, Hedy. “Gender-based violence online is a crisis”- Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, 2021.
- Guterres, Antonio. “UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech”, 2020.
- Harriman, Nigel. “Youth Exposure to Hate in the Online Space: An Exploratory Analysis,” 2020.
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966. LexisNexis Legal Glossary, “Reynold’s defence.”, n.d.
- No space for violence against women and girls in the digital world 2022, Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe.
- Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries, “Cyberbullying.”, n.d.
- Pawelec, Maria. Deepfakes and Democracy (Theory): How Synthetic Audio-Visual Media for Disinformation and Hate Speech Threaten Core Democratic Functions, 2022.
- Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, “Internet and Politics: the Impact of New Information and Communication Technology on Democracy”, 2014.
- Safi, Michael. “Indian Foreign Minister the Latest Victim of Social Media Attacks on Women,” 2018.
- Sample, Ian. “What Are Deepfakes – and How Can You Spot Them?” 2020.
- Telemadrid Es, “Court investigates the insults and threats to Carmena in a local police chat” (translated from Spanish), 2017.
- Turk, Victoria. “Deepfakes are already breaking democracy. Just ask any woman”, 2019. Urbinati, Nadia. “Representative Democracy and Its Critics.”, 2012.
- Zomer, Fleur Lonneke, “The Influence of Using the Internet on Citizens’ Participation in Politics”, 2022.