Fighting Online GBV: Bodyright Campaign Introduced in Cameroon

Women in Cameroon have been called upon to fight online GBV (Gender-based Violence) by owning their bodies online in a movement called “Bodyright”.

The “Bodyright” movement started by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) seeks to protect women from online violence through the unauthorised sharing of their pictures and videos online.

The UNFPA this December 9, 2022, brought together stakeholders in women’s issues across Cameroon to discuss measure to use to propagate the “Body Right” campaign to end online GBV.

About the “Bodyright” Campaign

The UNFPA expalins that bodyright is the first ‘copyright’ mark to assert and demand protection from digital violence with first, the bodyright symbol.

The bodyright symbol can be added to any picture of a human body directly on social media or any other digital content-sharing platform.

UNFPA aims at driving tech companies and policymakers to take the violation of human rights and protecting bodily autonomy online as serious as they take copyright infringement.

Alarming Figures of Online Gender-based Violence

The UNFPA indicates that 85% of women globally have experienced or witnessed digital violence against other women.

The statistics further show that 57% of women have had their videos or images online abused or misused.

Moreover, 96% of online deepfake videos are pornography, all of women.

With such alarming statistics, the UNFPA is calling on governments and women to protect their images online.

It is like having copyright to your image online, the Deputy Representative of the UNFPA in Cameroon, Noemi Dalmonte explains.

Negative Effects of Online GBV

The UNFPA website notes, “Just like walking down the street in the real world, we need to be safe in the virtual world. Having your image taken, manipulated and shared without permission is a violation of privacy, dignity, autonomy and can be a devastating experience. The feelings of fear, anxiety, loss of self-esteem and sense of powerlessness are real and enduring.”

The Sub Director of Mental Health at the Ministry of Public Health, Dr Laure Mengueme lends her voice to add that women whose pictures and videos are circulated online against their wish may sink to depression and attempt suicide, get violent, get rejected in social spheres and develop mental and psychological issues.

To her, women experiencing any of such should be taken to a mental health expert for follow-up so that they could fully reintegrate into society.

Forms of Online GBV

PLAN International’s exposé at the workshop highlighted how online GBV is carried out.

Bullying and trolling online is one of the forms of online GBV.

Digital GBV is also perpetrated through “revenge-porn” and sex tapes. This has taken precedence recently in Cameroon.

Another form is sexual harassment of women online.

The fourth form of online GBV highlighted by PLAN International is soliciting, stalking and sex trafficking which begins online.

How to Fight Online GBV

PLAN International proposes the following measures to fight digital GBV:

– Setting up and effectively applying a legal framework to prevent and combat gender-based violence, hate speech and discrimination, online and offline.

– Investigating, protecting the women targeted and holding those responsible accountable.

– Training law enforcement agencies to be able to investigate and prosecute digital violence more efficiently and provide them with specialist support services.

– Countering abusive misinformation campaigns online targeting women, especially female public figures.

– Guaranteeing easily accessible, safe and specialised mechanisms enabling women to report abuse and obtain the pulling down of harmful materials.

– Uniting forces and coordinating work with private actors who are driving cyber technologies in combating this phenomenon

– Ensuring the effective enforcement of social media companies’ obligations to restrict access to illegal content, in line with freedom of expression standards and as interpreted by the judiciary.

– Raising awareness about this problem, alerting society to the risks of online violence and educating children in schools and beyond about their rights and the dangers in the digital space.

– Remaining vigilant to the different types of behaviours and acts of violence in the digital sphere that are still not addressed or are yet to emerge.

How is “Bodyright” Done?

The UNFPA website elaborates on how to be involved in the bodyright campaign.

“Add the bodyright symbol to an image of yourself and post with the #bodyright hashtag. Talk about the issue online and offline.”

This campaign is one amongst many being used to discuss, expose and fight Gender-based Violence online as well as offline.

Eleanor Ayuketah Ngochi

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