Stop trolling us, urge female politicians

Nairobi Woman Rep Esther Passaris speaks at a meeting of female parliamentarians at a Nairobi hotel in November last year. The legislator says a trolling experience left her with “online grief”.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Female politicians have called for concerted efforts to curb online gender-based violence.
  • Many politicians prefer suffering in silence as society perceives them above the abuse.
  • Addressing the ‘social pandemic’ requires a multi-sectoral approach involving lawmakers and enforcement agencies.

Female politicians in Kenya have called for concerted efforts to curb online gender-based violence (OGBV).

Speaking during a joint Kenya Women Parliamentary Association and Danish Embassy in Kenya hybrid meeting on Monday, the politicians said the crime was denying women the right to freedom of expression and participation in political leadership.

Gilgil Member of Parliament Martha Wangari said many women aspiring to seek elective seats have shied off politics because of the “unbearable” trolling.

“I know a member who is serving in this Parliament who woke up (to news) of condoms labelled with her name littered on polling stations (on the nomination day). How many (women) can withstand that cruelty?” she wondered.

“How many would believe (a woman politician) has been abused? You will always be the woman to lose in the public space,” she said.

Social pandemic

She said addressing the ‘social pandemic’ requires a multi-sectoral approach involving lawmakers and enforcement agencies.

She noted that having more women in Parliament would facilitate passing more gender-responsive laws.

The legislator also urged women including journalists, to speak out against the vice since they are also targets of the cyber bullies.

Nairobi Woman Representative Esther Passaris, cited a trolling experience that left her with “online grief”.

In 2016, she had attended a television show with a political opponent who made defamatory claims against her. His claims became fodder for the trolls.

Misogynistic remarks

Since then, she said, she “has not had the heart” to appear on a show hosted by the same presenter.

A 2016 Inter-Parliamentary Union report says social media has increasingly become toxic and perpetuates psychological violence against women through sexist and misogynistic remarks as well as humiliating images, mobbing, threats, and intimidation.

The Nairobi Woman Rep said she has previously received sexual images in her inbox, and this experience has taught her to avoid downloading pictures from strangers.

“People have to realise that leaders are human beings,” she said.

Cyber harassment is a crime in Kenya. A person who wilfully communicates, either directly or indirectly, a grossly offensive message commits the offence. And the offender can be fined Sh20 million or spend 10 years in jail.

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