Uganda: Female Politicians Facing of Human Rights abuse -Virtually

Female politicians face a barrage of cyber harassment as they promote their work online, limiting their usage of the online space.

This violence is being used as a tool to intimidate and exclude women from political participation and decision-making. A Research conducted by Pollicy revealed that during the 2021 general elections in Uganda, women candidates compared to their male counterparts, were trolled and received sexualised violence and body shaming. This means that we need to end online abuse and also fight virtual violence against women politicians as it can have serious consequences for the women who are targeted.

One real life example is that of Becky Assimwe. Becky is a member of parliament for a Constituency in Western Ugand. Unfortunately, her voters leaked a conversation had in private to the blogs which quickly turned into a nightmare when she became a target of the vicious online attacks.

Following that incident, Becky was bombarded with abuse on social media, including sexist and derogatory comments about her appearance, her motherhood, and her political beliefs. The online abuse escalated to the point where Becky began receiving death threats, and she was forced to take a break from social media and seek support from her colleagues and family.

With time, support from her colleagues, and her own resilience, Becky was able to recover from the trauma and she returned to social media and continued to champion women’s rights and gender equality. She used her platform to advocate for a more inclusive and respectful political culture.

Uganda has a Computer Misuse Act whose purpose is to control how people use the internet. It is regrettable that the Act has been applied to penalize women who have been harassed online. Additionally, the crime of careless publishing of pornographic material has been used to criminalize victims whose images are posted online. But why should women be re-victimized and re-traumatized by the legal system that is there to protect them?

To reclaim women’s political freedom, female politicians must be given the tools they need to speak out against online abuse. The inclusion of more women in politics and democracy may be aided by this.

Becky’s experience is a reminder of the pervasive and damaging impact of online harassment, particularly women in politics. It is also a testament to the strength and resilience of women who refuse to be silenced or intimidated by online violence, and who use their experiences to advocate for change and progress.

Ruth Atim


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