Pakistani Nighat Dad has been honored as one of the six Times ‘Next Generation Leaders’.
A lawyer by trade and the Director of a non-profit called Digital Rights Foundation that helps educate Pakistanis about online harassment, she has also been vocal about Pakistan’s cyber crime law and the disclosure of information about customer habits to local and foreign businesses and government departments.
While online harassment is a global issue, it takes an even worse shape in countries like Pakistan which lack a coherent framework to punish offenders. According to a Pew survey in 2014, 65% of internet users aged between 18 and 29 have faced online harassment. Young women bear the brunt in particular. 26% of women between 18 and 24 have reported being stalked online while 25% have suffered sexual harassment.
While the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) does carry out investigations into such cases in Pakistan, most go unnoticed and unreported. Any initiative that can help young people deal well with such scenarios is welcome and Dad’s contributions have been the most significant in recent times.
Speaking about her work with the Digital Rights Foundation, she said:
We tell Internet users how to adjust their privacy settings, to make sure they have secure connections, change their passwords regularly and not to share unnecessary information. And women should come seek help if they are targeted and not feel ashamed.
While she has been campaigning for a cyber crime law since 2009, she has reservations about the proposed Bill and has been working to ensure it doesn’t give the government unlimited power that can be abused. Simplifying legal jargon is also part of her work. She says:
Every new law has one or two provisions that are really about regulating Internet space in Pakistan. I explain laws in layman’s language to inform people what the government is trying to do.
We congratulate Nighat Dad and hope she continues her work with limiting government power on the internet alongside her fight to make the digital realm safer for young people.