Cyber bullying of women candidates caused by lack of legislations, MPs

elections election
“No woman dared to run for elections, and the reason for that was their fear of offensive comments” ­— MP Bdoul. (File photo: Ameer Khalefih/ Jordan News)
AMMAN — According to Al-Hayat Center for Civil Society Development (Rased), thousands of cases of electronic violence that carried hate speech on social media, were registered, most of them were against women voters and candidates, during the municipal and governorate councils elections that took place last Tuesday. اضافة اعلان

Activists, women MPs, and candidates interviewed by Jordan News, said that one of the main reasons for the increase in hate speech and cyber bullying is the lack of legislation that deters such actions, and that the government and concerned entities must work to raise and strengthen citizens’ awareness about the harms and dangers of bullying.

MP Zainab Al-Bdoul told Jordan News that in the Kasbah of Maan, “no woman dared to run for elections, and the reason for that was their fear of offensive comments, especially comments that target women’s appearance and private lives”.

She added that women should ignore offensive comments; “if we do not do that, we will not be able to continue” the political work.

According to Bdoul, women must also work to strengthen trust in them; “this is a patriarchal society that still views women as just a body and does not consider their thoughts and minds. We have to empower women politically for them to be able to resist and prove themselves”.

Bdoul added that “when a woman has sound thinking and clear principles, she will inevitably impose respect”.

“We must strengthen societal culture about the dangers of bullying and also strengthen laws and regulations, for them to act as deterrents to such heinous acts,” she said.

MP Dina Al-Bashir told Jordan News that cyber bullying affects both men and women, but that “the abuse that affects women targets her person and her personal life”.

She added that some candidates are forced to withdraw from the elections as a result of abuse and bullying.

“We have to educate women candidates about the importance of the woman fighting for her rights and not being silent. Civil society institutions also have an important role in promoting and spreading awareness about the mechanism for submitting a complaint in this regard, and who is the concerned party in this matter, so that the candidates can deal properly with bullying and abuse,” she said.

Founder and Director of the Arab Women Media Center Mahasen Al-Emam, who is also a women’s rights activist, told Jordan News that one of the main reasons for bullying women, in particular, “is the lack of acceptance by some, until today, of the presence of women in the decision-making position and the jealousy of some men, stemming from this matter, especially since some believe that some positions are reserved for men only”.

She added that there are deterrent laws for these acts, but “unfortunately, they are not enforced in practice. The presence of social networking sites has opened the way for some people to publicly offend. Therefore, we have to raise awareness among citizens about the dangers of bullying, and to punish anyone who publishes abuse of any individual in society, whether male or female”.

Executive Director of the Legal Network for Arab Women Samah Marmash told Jordan News that the problem lies in the wrong societal beliefs, “which aim to weaken the image of women and even break them”.

She added that “the way of thinking of some must be changed, especially since verbal abuse is caused by a closed mind”.

She also said that “we have to learn to express our point of view about something without personalizing things, and also to criticize something and not someone; if you want to criticize, you can criticize the lack of a clear electoral program, for example, and not the outward appearance of the candidates”.

“Changing the societal culture in this matter requires us to work over the course of a whole year and to enhance a healthy community culture among school and university students, and to teach them how to replace abusive bullying with things that will serve and advance our society,” she added.

Yasmin Zoubi, who was a candidate in the last election, told Jordan News that bullying targeted all candidates, male and female, and the reason for this is that “some people like to hurt and harm each other”.

She said that “I was among the women who were bullied, but I believe that I cannot change people’s behavior and way of thinking, but in return, I believe that there should be reinforcement of legislation, to act as a deterrent to such heinous acts”, and that awareness about the harms of bullying and its consequences, should be raised, “especially since some people still do not realize that bullying is a criminal act by law”.

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