THE ONLINE HARASSMENT OF WOMEN IN POLITICS IN KENYA
By Michelle Otiato
The meeting was held both virtual and physical audience. The purpose of the discussion was because of the official campaign period for the August 2022 elections which will begin on May 29th. It is critical that female candidates have an equal opportunity to compete. It is expected that the campaign to become more intense, particularly in the digital realm, where candidates can more easily reach and engage voters.
However, digital technology can be exploited to undermine democracy. In Kenya, female political aspirants are harassed via technology and social media. This is a significant disadvantage for female candidates and inhibits women from running for office. This need coordinated action ahead of the August 9 elections. There were also examination of
evidence and testimony from Kenyan female lawmakers at the event to be heard. It was said that Kenya still had the issue of unequal numbers of women in the parliamentary seats in
that in number they are 86 out of 349 hence their voices are still not heard. Gender-based violence is still one of the key issues that are still affecting women politicians which leads to the underrepresentation of female policy makers due to the low numbers of female politicians who win elections. Technology is said to significantly lower the efforts and cost of harassment surveillance intimidation, defamation and disinformation efforts. Online safety for women was emphasized for cyber-bullying is still an ongoing issue for women especially women political aspirants who intend to use their social media platforms to communicate to voters effectively.
Women voices such as Hon. Esther Pasaris and Hon. Martha Wangari, who were victims of cyber- bullying as women in politics were heard in the meeting and gave their experiences which caused them lots of emotional damage. They talked on women being sexualized where in the case of Hon.Esther Pasaris she was accused and humiliated on live tv by that time, her fellow politician, Miguna Miguna, by saying that she had an affair with Hon. Raila Odinga, a well-known politician in Seychelles hinting that she was not a good leader but an escort. In the case of Hon. Martha Wangari, she was thrown out of parliament for publicly for breastfeeding her child in parliament. This shows how women are still stigmatized for their shame is so far different from men. Women politicians also faced with non-consensual images (pornography) where the images are debunked hence humiliated and forced to explain themselves which on most occasions, the audience don’t believe them, and it also affects their families. There was a panel which consisted of various technological experts from different technical companies such as META, NCIC and others who talked about what they have done as companies to end these cyber-bullying. There were policies in a company such as Meta to keep people safe which included the content moderations in different diversities and image search in cases of debunked images and shutting down of accounts due to bullying. The NCIC talked about their ‘Bila Noma‘ initiative for the elections to emphasize political decency and a peace and accountability charter for both citizens and politicians. The FIDA Kenya pointed their work with the women political aspirants to make sure that the sexual violence is included in the electoral offences to protect women and
making sure the ones involved are dealt with properly.