Nashinge settlement amplifies cyber protection call

THE settlement agreement in which Independent Patriots for Change (IPC) spokesperson Immanuel ‘Imms’ Nashinge has agreed to apologise and pay N$60 000 to socialite Beata Siteketa for calling her a prostitute on social media in March, provides a perfect case for the implications of cyber violence against women which we should all learn from.

Verily in this day, we have seen how lawsuits of people who genuinely feel violated on social media and are seeking justice have begun to flood the courts. Former member of parliament, Alois Gende recently dragged a Facebook user to court, where he is demanding N$3 million in damages after an alleged slanderous post about him among other examples that point to changing dynamics in the unhinged use of social media against others.

What is agreeable is that despite their numerous benefits to humanity, internet platforms have brought new challenges where irresponsible use of social media has resulted in social vices such as violence, terrorism, child pornography and a myriad of other social ills. To counter the social media-induced threats, most nations have resorted to strict regulatory frameworks that criminalise and penalise some of the social media actions that are viewed as threats to national harmony, a route that Namibia should also take.

Making matters worse, the sharp rise in technology-related violence against women and its normalisation has made the use of the internet a gendered issue. Therefore it has, of necessity, become imperative that women get to the fore of the debate and call for legislative reform that help protect them when they seek to partake in our digital evolution amid the fourth industrial revolution.

There is no denying that women’s online sexual harassment, surveillance, unauthorised use and manipulation of personal information, including leaked images and videos, are a prominent feature on the African cyberspace. In most cases the harassment takes both subtle and blatant sexist or misogynistic approaches, which often develop into physical or sexual threats.

Locally, there is currently no policy framework that directly addresses cyber aggression, and the need exists for a comprehensive policy that directly addresses the safety of everyone both online and in the realm of cellular technologies. The government should formulate cyber violence policy in recognition of the fact that cyber violence against women and girls in particular is a form of gender-based violence.

Online human rights advocates/defenders in the country should use cases such as the Nashinge one to justify and call for legal protection of women and girls against gender-based cyber violence particularly in this age of Covid-19 where such violence seems to have escalated.

Apart from this, the internet and online platforms such as Facebook should create clear options for getting images or abusive content removed. They should also respond immediately and effectively to complaints from victims of online abuse, and finally establish genuine consent for terms of use.