A new report details how online abuse experienced by Libyan women has grown steadily in recent years, often escalating to physical attacks, with no laws in place to combat the problem.
The report, published by Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL), an NGO that seeks to defend and promote human rights in the country, calls on Libyan authorities to immediately acknowledge the widespread pattern of online violence against women and enact legislation to address the issue.
According to the report, online abuse of women, including harassment, threats, cyberstalking and exposing personal information, started following the 2011 uprising and has been on the rise since, due to a lack of regulations to protect women.
Such incidents, according to research fellow and senior law lecturer Dr Olga Jurasz, have deterred many women from their activism, particularly following the 2011 uprising where social media was a key tool allowing women to voice their opinions.
“Online activism became a form of empowerment for women, not only offering an opportunity to overcome barriers to active participation in public and political life but also to challenge existing gender stereotypes and patriarchal norms,” Jurasz told Middle East Eye.
“However, the instances of online abuse can and do undermine the transformative potential of the internet, digital spaces, and social media – especially for women,” she added, explaining that accountability for such acts is largely lacking.
Abuse as a deterrent
According to Jurasz, the rise in online abuse against women has had some major consequences in terms of political representation.
“Online abuse can, and often is a deterrent factor for women’s involvement in activism and campaigning, but also going into politics. This has severe implications for women’s representation in the political dialogue and for ensuring equality of participation in public and political life,” she said.
Of the people surveyed by the organisation, 96 percent said that online violence against women was a serious problem and 60 percent said they believed the government or its militias were involved in the perpetration of the issue.