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Internet growth in Kenya increases gender-based violence

09 March 2016, 08:12

Nairobi - The growth of the Internet is fueling rising incidences of violence against women on the cyber-space, resulting in loss of lives, physical violence and suicide, government officials and executives of regional bodies said Tuesday amid celebrations to mark the International Women's Day.

Cabinet Secretary for Information and Technology (ICT) Joe Mucheru said on Tuesday the growth of the internet has had serious implications for the society, including its negative impact on increasing the violence against women and girls on the cyber-space.

"We recognize the problem, understand the challenge and are doing something about it," Mucheru told women who gathered for celebrations to mark the International Women's Day in Nairobi, convened by the African Development Bank (AfDB) to launch a campaign against cyber-space gender violence.

Kenyan authorities and the AfDB officials agreed to work together to combat gender-based violence, linked to the increased use of the internet, mobile telephones and social media platforms.

Most women and girls often fall victim to online threats, which affects all levels of society, from students, senior government officials, politicians and entertainment personalities, Mucheru said.

"While internet has opened up communication, cyber violence has become a plague which affects all women and girls regardless of age, race and social standing," said Gabriel Negatu, Director of the AfDB's Regional Resource Centre based in Nairobi.

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He said as more women and girls go online to learn and work, they are encountering a form of violence that is as severe as physical violence.

"In the recent past, Kenya has witnessed an alarming rise in gender based attacks on cyber space platforms, including social media, some of which has resulted in death, health challenges and court cases," Negatu said.

AfDB officials say the anonymity that the internet offers has seen the propagation of a number of negative stereotypes that risk normalizing societal prejudices.

The impact is psychological, mental and even financial, as it transforms the potential ICT has for empowerment into a weapon.

To deal with the threat of cyber-space bullying, the AfDB said it was launching an Africa-wide campaign to train the police and the judicial staff in the prevention of internet-based gender violence and online crimes against women and girls in Kenya.

Mucheru said there were incidences of emotional abuse against women, girls, invasion of privacy and bullying that prove more harmful to the society as a result of the growing use of the internet.

He said the government was in the process of completing a new law to deal with computer crimes and cybercrimes, which would help to deal with the gender crimes.

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- Xinhua

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