What you need to know:
Cyberbullying, like all other forms of violence that are prevalent in Kenya, including gender-based ones, political and sexual violence continues to thrive in the country’s ungovernable online space.
According to the 2019 Global Innovation Index, Kenya has undergone a great ICT revolution and has been ranked the second-leading innovation hub in Sub-Saharan Africa, after South Africa.
Of similar interest is the internet penetration in the country that stands at 90 per cent as per the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) report. Almost 90 per cent of Kenyans go online to visit social network platforms — which include Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat and Twitter.
Unfortunately, the growth of the internet technology not only in the country but globally has led to the proliferation of cyberbullying, especially in countries with weak policies such as Kenya.
In April, the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) ranked Kenyans as the worst bullies on Twitter as they come together and attack their common enemies.
Young women more vulnerable
Research shows that the youth, especially young women, are more vulnerable to cyberbullying. While more males are exposed to cyberbullying related to physical aggression, more females are victims of cyberbullying that includes non-consesual sharing of intimate images, unsolicited sending of sexual and pornographic images and other forms of cyberbullying that entails sexualised behaviour.
A report by the Kenya ICT Action Network on the challenges faced by Kenyan women on the internet lists non-consent, distribution of intimate images, sexual harassment, stalking, hate, offensive comments and body shaming as some of the most prominent violations of women’s rights and wellbeing.
Cyberbullying puts a premium on emotional health, personal and workplace, time and resources. It has a psychological, social, physical, emotional and economic impact on women.
Anxiety and self-esteem affect young women in particular, causing them mental and emotional issues, leaving them grappling with issues of confidence in a heavily patriarchal society that does not value women much.
The government, therefore, need to see to it that cyberbullying is stopped so that women can fully participate in conversations about governance and human rights, among other topics affecting them.
It should put in place policies that guide the country’s online sphere, and impose severe punishment on those who go against them, to make social media platforms a safe space to be in, especially for women.
Zipporah Odionyi, Busia