International Women’s Day 2020: Dad, a digital warrior in Pakistan

March 9, 2020

With her “Hack the patriarchy” laptop stickers, Nighat Dad is a digital warrior. But this human rights award winner and founder of Pakistan”s first cyber-harassment helpline still tears up as she describes receiving calls from women afraid of being killed by male relatives for using the internet. Nighat Dad established the help line in 2016 with prize money (100,000 euros) from the Dutch human rights award, the Tulip

Much of Pakistani society lives under the patriarchal, outdated code of so-called “honour” that systemises the oppression of women by preventing them from, for example, choosing their own husband or working outside the home. Activists have denounced pervasive, sometimes deadly violence by men — usually male relatives — against women who break those taboos. The situation is dire enough in the offline world.

But Pakistan is only just beginning to grapple with what violent notions of honour mean for women online, in a country where internet penetration is at 22 percent and growing, but digital literacy is low.

Much of the work the helpline does is to explain to women what recourse they have. Social media companies are playing ball, Dad says — some have even agreed to establish “escalation channels” for getting content off the internet quickly when a woman”s life is in immediate danger. But she warns that community guidelines developed by such companies, usually US-based, are not appropriate in Pakistan. “I think they need to do more,” Dad says. More than three years on, the Tulip money has run out. Now the helpline survives only by the grace of small grants from groups such as the Netherlands-based Digital Defenders Partnership, which supports rights activists.

…. She cites last year”s International Women”s Day march in Pakistan, which saw women turn out in unprecedented numbers loudly celebrating divorce and periods, among other things. The response was swift and shocking in its intensity, with Dad describing mullahs making rape and death threats against the march organisers in videos widely distributed online. The 2016 murder of social media star Qandeel Baloch has also impacted her, she says. Baloch divided Pakistan with her videos and selfies, tame by Western standards but provocative in Pakistan. She was strangled by her brother in 2016 in what has been called the country”s most high-profile “honour” killing.

She was a hero for me… she did what she wanted to do, and not every woman can do this in Pakistan,” Dad says.

Dad says she cannot help but see the similarities between herself and Baloch. They are from similar backgrounds, both left abusive marriages, and both have gained fame by loudly challenging social taboos online — though admittedly not in quite the same way. Her murder “shook me badly,” she tells AFP. “It was enough to shake us all.”

……

https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/nighat-dad-pakistans-digital-warrior-battling-the-patriarchy/1755905

https://www.rferl.org/a/pakistani-lawyer-fights-abuse-of-women-who-dare-to-go-online/30469845.html

One Response to “International Women’s Day 2020: Dad, a digital warrior in Pakistan”


  1. Dear Hans, Many thanks for your comprehensive coverage of such topics and the general struggle to defend human rights.

    I thought you would be interested in the situation in the Philippines. It is, I understand, the most dangerous place in the world for environmental defenders; a bad place to be a journaist of course, with Duterte attacking the media in similar fashion as Trump, but more explicit about killing the human rights critics!

    The situation for lawyers in the Philippines is actually worse for lawyers than journalists with 54 lawyers killed under Duterte and about 13 or 14 journalists. I attach the results of research on the lawyers.

    Kind regards, Gill H. Boehringer Honorary Senior Research Fellow (former Dean) Macquarie University School of Law Sydney , Australia ________________________________


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