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Online Bullying Destroys Lives and Families

The last one month sparked controversy on social media after the European continent yet again demonstrated that they remain the queens of racial discrimination.

It started with Chelsea’s rising star Tammy Abraham when the teenager lost the last post-match penalty kick to give Liverpool the Champions League Super Cup after a 2-2 draw.

Tammy was subjected to racial abuses from online bullies, a phenomenon that didn’t ogre well with the Chelsea Football Club management.

Days later, Manchester United’s World Cup winning midfielder Paul Pogba lost a spot-kick in regular time against Wolverhampton and the French was not spared of his skin colour after the game ended 1-1.

During the past weekend, two incidences again happened and this time, it was former United striker Romelu Lukaku who scored a winning penalty for his new club Inter-Milan against Cagliari. Inter won the match 2-1.

Back at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s defender Kurt Zouma scored an own-goal in the dying minutes to let newbies Sheffield Wednesday snatch a surprise 2-2 draw against Chelsea

The camera lenses captured a dejected Zouma covering his face with his right hand apparently in preparations for his then impending bashing by the online racists. He was not spared.

Families of these players are as well affected as these are loving dads, husbands and sons to human beings with feelings.

You may never have met them in person nor asked for their help but will pounce on your throat torturing you on online platforms.

Even as the world celebrates the online technology which has eased communication, not everyone has embraced the online engagement in relation to one’s experience.

And in this whole cyber bullying, women are also victimized. Joy (not her real name), a staff at AAYMCA fell victim to cyber bullying last year. Her only mistake was to post her pictures on Facebook. A con downloaded the pictures, created a new Facebook page and started coning people. This went on unknown to Carol.

One day, a person who had been conned, shared Joy’s pictures on Buyer Be Ware, a Facebook page that is used to expose cons in society. Carol received all manner of insults, she was devasted, heartbroken and even contemplated leaving social media. None was believing her side of story, that she was not a con but someone used her pictures to con people.

The matter was reported at Kilimani Post Station and referred to DCI but to date nothing has been done, despite the fact that all details about the real con who was coning people using her pictures shared with the police and DCI officers. She was instead asked for a KES 10,000 bribe by an officer for her case to be followed up. She refused to pay and that’s how her case died a natural case.

Jeniffer (not her real name) fell victim to online bullying in 2013 when she attempted vying for an elective seat in Western Kenya.

According to Jeniffer*, her only sin was trying to vie. Just that. Her opponents hired online goons that roasted her alive, photo-shopping her in intimate photos with a tycoon she claims had never met in real life.

“I was abused of my genitals, my innocent children were attacked and my entire family was traumatized to the bones,” Janet tells this writer in an interview at her home in Trans Nzoia County.

Some even cartooned my genitals to look like ballot boxes where rejected votes are dumped, just imagine!” When her husband passed away in 2017 after a cardiac arrest, Ms Carolyne Buyela says she was subjected to embarrassing torments on social media platforms in Bungoma County, Western Kenya.

“I was subjected to terrible bullying on social media platforms with the attackers crafting unsubstantiated propaganda without even bothering about the respect of my little children and family at large,” narrates Ms Buyela who is currently the Special Programs Advisor in Bungoma County.

So much her tormenting was that her own brother quit online platforms to avoid any further torture of seeing his loved sister harassed on social media.

“In fact, my brother quit social media due to the experience. I asked myself if my elder brother can be that traumatized, what about my children?” See her video below:

The established business woman said that at one time, her brother, who unfortunately succumbed to cancer two weeks ago, wanted to meet one of Caro’s known attacker and square it out

But unlike Joy, Jeniffer, Carolyne who managed to bounce back to life as well as Tammy Abraham who has silenced his tormentors by scoring in every match since that attack, thousands others succumb to pressure and even commit suicide, leaving their families with nothing else but to let go their loved ones.

According to AAYMCA Gender based violence survey conducted last year in Kenya and Zambia, study conducted between December 2016 and February 2017 shows that 37.9% and 44.3% of respondents agreed that social media (Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Dating sites) and SMS platforms are unsafe for women and girls.

 In addition to this 69% of Kenya respondents and 76% in Zambia reported having viewed pictures, video clips, audio messages of girls or women being abused online. 49% and 56% Kenya and Zambia reported having experienced online harassment or know someone who has experienced the same.

These and other results show that there is widespread harassment taking place online and therefore there is need to act fast in addressing this. A review of existing policies during the time of the study shows that there is little recognition of the opportunity for violence on online space.

As such the study shows that most respondents felt that the reason for online harassment was that there was no fear of punishment. There is therefore a need to encourage reporting and prosecution of perpetrators of violence or harassment through online spaces.

The YMCA in Africa remains committed to addressing gender based violence and promoting gender equality in its online and offline platforms. This is in keeping with the agenda to create young citizens who are actively involved in transforming their communities. This is embodied in our vision to empower young people for the African Renaissance.

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