By Amrin Pisey
In school, we are told that violence against women is illegal and taught to hate it. Everyday, when turning on the TV, we always see the advertisements raising awareness about domestic violence against women. It seems like many people out there are working so hard to protect women, right?
But in this digital age, have we ever realized that violence against women happens on social media too?
Generally, when hearing the word ‘violence against women’, most people only think of a small part of the violence such as physical or domestic violence. But in fact, the meaning of violence against women is more than that.
The United Nations defines the term violence against women or ‘gender-based violence’ as any action that damages a woman’s general well-being, of both her body and her mind, in whichever part of her life. These actions include physically, sexually and mentally abusing the women, threatening to do so, or getting the women into harm’s way.
Currently, many women fall as the victims of violence online since some people use social media to shame, blame, threaten, abuse, or harass them.
In Cambodia, several cases of violence against women have gone viral on Facebook. Posts about rape incidents are common and often get shared. Recently, a woman who had been caught stealing was mercilessly beaten up, with scenes of the terrible and degrading violence captured and posted on Facebook. In another case, a woman was hit and stripped naked because she was accused of having an affair with someone’s husband. It is horrifying that after already facing physical and sexual abuse, those women were blamed and shamed online too.
This growing problem on social media is part of the bigger picture of violence against women in Cambodia, which has been found to be a serious and under reported issue. In 2015, a nation-wide survey found that more than 30% of Cambodian women had been emotionally abused in a relationship at some point. A further 21% of the women surveyed had been physically and sexually assaulted, with 8% reported being a victim of such violence in the year before the survey.
These facts are terrifying, right? Are you now worried that you or your beloved people could become the victims of violence too? Do you want to find ways to stop this issue? Guess what, you already have the tools, your social media! Take a look at the ways we can all start taking action against gender-based violence on these platforms :
Don’t victim-blame on your comments and posts
When seeing news about a woman being abused, harassed or raped, most people tend to shame and blame the woman for that. People often misunderstand why violence against women happens. For instance, many believe that because of the way the women dress and behave, men cannot control themselves. Another common blame for violence is on alcohol. Such misplaced blames protect the perpetrators and allow them to escape. Focusing on them isn’t the way that we can stop violence at all.
The actual main causes of violence against women don’t have much to do with the victims or drunkenness. Research has found that what better predicts gender-based violence is when the women have less control and resources than the men. Men who hold strongly to the idea that men and women must follow strict gender rules to act and be a certain way also tend to commit the violence.
Some people may think that by criticizing the women’s behavior, it would give a clear warning for other women not to follow, so they can stay safe. But if we still blame women for the violence and hold on to the idea that it is the women’s mistakes, and that women are responsible to keep men from hurting them, gender-based violence will still exist. And women will become a victim forever.
In any situation, even if a woman commits theft, violence is a disrespect and violation of the women’s rights. Serious cases of wrongdoings should be settled by the law, not by abuse or harassment.
Guys! Do not let these norms shape your thoughts. You know it’s wrong to rape, harass and abuse women, right? So we can stop adding to the culture of victim-blaming by putting an end to blaming women on our comments and posts. The only one who should be responsible for violence is the perpetrator, not the victims.
Use your voice on social media to spread the awareness©Safe Cities for Women Cambodia/2018
There have been many social media campaigns calling people from all around the world to join and break the social norm of violence.
Since 2013, the UN Women has held a global annual campaign called The 16 Days of Activism to stop violence against women and girls. So far, millions of people around the world have supported and joined the campaign, both off and on social media by using the signature color orange. The campaign is coming back again this year, so stay tuned for it. 🙂
In Cambodia, we also have a campaign called Safe Cities for Women Cambodia. The purpose of this campaign is to fight against gender-based violence, and provide women a safe environment where they can live and travel safely without the fear of being abused physically, emotionally or sexually.
So on our social media accounts, we can join and support such campaigns by sharing the information about the issue and spreading the beautiful messages empowering women to your friends, as well as people around the world.
And when you come across one, please don’t skip the educational video of gender-based violence! Watch it to have a better understanding on the issue and gain more general knowledge. Here is one educational video by Oxfam International I would like to share with you. You can share this too! 🙂
Share your story and report social media offences
© Safe Cities for women Cambodia/2018
We can also use social media to speak up against and report any accounts, pages or news that support or perpetuate violence against women. The unpleasant messages, comments and contents on the social media cannot be recognised by the police, but we can be an investigator who can help report these things.
If you or your friends have been harassed or threatened online, you shouldn’t keep silent and let the offences escape. Please share what’s happening with your friends and family to seek for help and be careful together. Another good way is to report and block the person who sends you threatening or offensive messages. More than that, it would be better if you can avoid checking in or sharing the locations of where you visit, so that you can be safe from being stalked by some psychos too.
Don’t remain silent anymore. Let’s fight against violence against women together. We can help end the violence against women everywhere, even on social media. So, choose to use it for the goodness of our society.
Do you have other ideas on how we can use social media to bring positive changes for women? Share your thoughts in the comment section!
Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.