According to a recently published report by the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), cyber harassment complaints in Pakistan have increased manifold during the Coronavirus-induced lockdown.
Titled “COVID-19 and Cyber Harassment,” the report states that cyber harassment complaints during March and April, following the enforcement of lockdown by the government, jumped up by 189% against the complaints registered in January and February.
Cyber Harassment incidents reported by women account for 74% of the total complaints. Meanwhile, 19% of complaints were lodged by men and 5% by non-binary persons.
Sexual harassment, surveillance, unauthorized and non-consensual use and dissemination of personal data, and blackmailing and manipulation using personal information, images, and videos are some of the forms of complaints of online harassment reported by women during March and April.
The report recommends the government to streamline the process of online complaint registration and initiate legal proceedings against the perpetrators at the earliest.
To ensure public health and safety during case proceedings amid COVID-19 pandemic, the report recommends the government to turn to technology and adopt video-based testimony.
It further suggests that law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and judges need to be sensitized to gendered risks that women and gender minorities face online.
To achieve this goal, the report suggests the inclusion of cybercrime laws, internet governance, digital forensics, and digital rights into the curriculum of law enforcement officials and judges.
Lastly, the report calls on Pakistan’s government to ratify the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime for enhanced international cooperation and data sharing on cybercrime.