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Activists push for stronger response to cyber-violence against women in Jordan

By Rana Husseini - Feb 11,2020 - Last updated at Feb 11,2020

AMMAN — Activists on Tuesday called for raising awareness about digital abuse against women and adopting measures to protect women from digital blackmailing and cyber-bullying.

They also stressed the importance of providing the needed assistance for women who fall victim to digital violence, instead of blaming them for the abuse.

“We conducted several awareness-raising sessions in Karak and Tafileh governorates on digital security for women who fall victim to digital blackmailing, since they are afraid to file complaints because they will be blamed for the cyber abuse they are being subjected to,” Founder and Executive Director  of the Karak Castle Centre for Consultations (KCCC) Esraa Mahadin said. 

Speaking during the launch of the Regional Campaign for Digital Safety Awareness for Women, Mahadin noted: “We realise that many women will adhere to the blackmailer’s demands — which could range from demanding money to asking them to perform certain acts — and that is why we must constantly encourage women to report the abuse.”

“We are there to help them go through the process of filing a complaint,” she added. 

Director of Programmes and Activities at Solidarity is Global Institute (SIGI) Rana Abu Sundos agreed with Mahadin, noting that, in most cases, instead of being viewed and treated as victims in need of support and help, women are often the ones who are blamed.

“The wide spread of the Internet in the Kingdom has created a new form of violence against women, and we at SIGI have become very familiar with this phenomenon and the fact that women are not well-aware of how to deal with this problem, and we have geared many of our services to help them,” Abu Sundos said.

SIGI Executive President Asma Khader had told The Jordan Times in a previous interview that, after receiving dozens of complaints mostly from young women and female students who were subjected to blackmailing and digital threats, SIGI has conducted several training sessions to empower women to combat such forms of abuse.

“Many of the stories we received are from women who believe that they have befriended other females and start sharing personal information and photos, and later they discover that their friend is actually a male who is after their personal information in return for money or sex,” Khader explained.

That is why, the president maintained, SIGI established a Technical and Legal Assistance Unit nearly six months ago to help female victims of cyber-bullying and violence. 

The unit has also visited several governorates in the Kingdom and popular places in Amman to raise awareness among women about safe use of electronic devices.

Also addressing the gathering on Tuesday was Jordan Open Source Association (JOSA) Programme Coordinator Raya Sharbain, who said that the association has dealt with dozens of women who had their devices hacked or were victims of blackmailing or character assassination, among other types of abuse.

“Most of the digital violence targets women. We offer technically focused training and digital clinics, and we provide one-on-one help for women in the Kingdom on digital safety and security, including hacking and blackmailing,” Sharbain said.

SecDev Gender Adviser and Programme Manager for the MENA region Reem Mahmoud said that the launch event is part of the “Salam” regional project, which has been operating in Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Bahrain, Kuwait and Morocco for the past six months.

“The project is adopting a public health approach to tackling digital violence and protect women from online violence,” Mahmoud told The Jordan Times.

Mahmoud added that her organisation works through local partnerships and offers various services including training, awareness sessions, legal digital clinics, referral systems and social support.

“We want to raise awareness about digital safety in every household and we want women who have faced cyber attacks or blackmailing to approach us via our Facebook page so we can help them or refer them to our partners,” Mahmoud stressed.

Meanwhile, MP Reem Abu Dalbouh pledged to examine related legislation currently in place and work to adopt amendments that combat digital abuse in the Kingdom.

“We need to examine the laws carefully to pinpoint gaps in legislation and ensure the best legal protection against cyber violence, whose main victims are usually women,” Abu Dalbouh told the gathering. 

At the same time, the MP added, “we need to ensure the safety of women, especially those who are subjected to blackmailing, and this can be done in collaboration with NGOs”.

The Salam project is supported by the SecDev Foundation and implemented in partnership with SIGI, the KCCC and JOSA.

The SecDev Foundation is a Canadian think-and-do tank that works to help communities pursue digital opportunities, safety and citizenship, according to the foundation’s website. 


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