Friday, November 26, 2010

Day 2: Get the statistics & petition a politician!

check out the TTBT campaign video and the linked videos below

Daily Actions
read more on the TBTT site

As a sociologist, I've known the difficulties of collecting and compiling data over time on sexual assault, rape, and domestic violence in my university town(s) as well as my more recent experiences working on domestic violence issues in Bangladesh. "Official" population or survey data are limited owing to the sensitivity of the questions as well as the survivors' experiences definition of harassment, rape, sexual assault and of shame-blame/honor/family and so forth. These data challenges occur around the world.

In the USA, we have had access to such data since the 1980s and we still have varying estimates such as 1 in 3 women experience sexual assault in their lifetimes and 1/4 domestic violence. Definitions also vary among researchers in USA and else where. Do these estimates refer to harsh words, grabbing, hitting, injuring, rape, and/or some combination, including death? Some women seek an order of protection, which may restrict contact with an abuser, but doesn't provide ironclad security against another assault. The filing of charges and convictions are even lower although changes in laws, police enforcement, legal advocates, and support have improved reporting and sanctions from previous levels. For example, when I started teaching at my university in the early 1980s, women students who reported stalking by men had few legal options. These newer laws had provided some legal recourse (although still difficult to charge and prosecute).

All these factors have led to ongoing underestimates of the problems and less attention to the causes and solutions by lawmakers, legal authorities, governments, and civil society. Ironically, domestic violence shelters have seen more demands for their services during the ongoing economic recession, while the state governments and funders have dramatically cut their funding. So one action for these 16 days might be to donate money, goods, and time to local domestic violence shelters and programs.

This use/misuse of ICT has received some attention mostly in widely publicized cases of abuse/bullying on basis of gender, sexuality, race-ethnicity (or intersections) on social networking sites by fake accounts, mobiles-cell phone use of photos, videos, sexting, and other activities. These forms of harassment have led to suicides, deaths, and socio-emotional trauma and only then do we hear about more cases across the USA. At the same time, some cell apps such as Hollaback can help pinpoint harassers and their locations. Once again we need more systematic data on these abuses as well as timely education and solutions on bullying, abuse of power, and harassment via newer forms of ICT such as social networks, smart phones, video cameras, and more!

In contexts where government and legal authorities have ignored or paid limited attention to sexual assault and domestic violence in the paucity of laws or enforcement and gathering data, we need to encourage the gathering of good, quality, and unbiased data on these crimes and their legal outcomes as well as concrete action and education. Meanwhile governments, schools, and parents will continue ignore how harassers and abusers find ways to use ICT to harass and abuse women through phone calls, social networks, sexting, broadcase of videos-photos (from mobiles and webcams) and more. Education also includes training young women and men on the vagaries and respectful use of ICT. For example, when posting "fun party" pictures on the internet, many people remain unaware that their images and words will stay on the internet and social networking sites. These materials can be retrieved by employers and future partners & in-laws by a simple google search. Some posters/postees have lost their jobs as a result. Likewise, adda-gossip-and facts about certain domestic violence-murder cases that went viral out on social media continue to circulate. This information can serve to inform-alert as well as serve as cautionary tales for what happens if women do and/or do not speak up. The TTBT site has many good suggestions and ideas for safe surfing and participation.

This brings me specifically to Bangladesh, which only in spring 2010 approved legislation against domestic violence despite rates that rank among the highest in the world. Unfortunately, the enforcement of laws against violence against women such as sexual assault, acid throwing, and sexual harassment, eve-teasing, and bullying have been limited and politicized. As more girls and young women attend schools, eve-teasing (illegal in Bangladesh) has limited women's education and mobility (see Bangladesh battles sexual bullying) and increased young women's suicides. In response the government has increased some police patrols outside of schools and some undercover women police in schools. This media report 500 arrests...and I wonder how many convictions and actual punishment for these actions and when eve-teasers turn on guardians?

As more and more Bangladeshi have acquired mobiles, such devices have become another vehicle for communication and harassment (ofen anon.) especially among young women and men who have little experience with respectful communication with each other. I observed this among male staff in a research project who used their mobiles in courting phone calls (bhalobashi kotha--love talk--I called it). Computer teachers and I talked with young women who came to the now closed Nari Jibon office in their mobile and internet communication including voice chats. We tried to provide some training on safe use of the internet and ICT. I wonder how they are faring in the expanded use of mobiles as well as the limited safe cyber cafes-spaces of the internet?

This can even affect bideshis (foreigners) as myself with unwanted phone calls by men who randomly call numbers until they reach a woman, esp foreigner (I've written about this in earlier blogposts). I threatened to call the mobile provider and police if he persisted in his phone calls. If politicians and law enforcers lack the will to deal with existing laws while insisting that every cell phone be registered to a listed person, then once again overburdened women's organizations and like-minded allies-- including the media-- must document and publicize the various ICT abuses and incidents.

So reach out and "touch" some one respectfully with kind, thoughtful words via your venue of choice...and insist that we have good data and practices dealing with those who abuse ICT.

In line with Day 3, on slogans....Refuse to be Abused....

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