Against cyber harassment

Ahmed Shatil Alam writes about ‘Justice For Women, Bangladesh’, a Facebook-based group that is helping victims of cyber harassment

ino01Around the first quarter of this year, Shimana, a young lady in her mid-twenties, was beside herself with the predicament that she faced. A number of photos of her with her boyfriend had gone viral on the internet, along with her phone number and other details.
She had herself found out after receiving a number of calls from young and middle-aged men who inquired rather lewdly about her. One of them had shared with her that he found her number from a website.
Soon, she searched the internet and to her shock, she found similar posts on a number of websites. She also realised that it was her boyfriend, a young male from Chittagong who had posted these photos of her on several websites. He began to blackmail her for money. ‘He claimed a significant sum of money from me if I wanted him to stop posting these photos online,’ she shares with New Age Xtra.
Shimana found herself in a helpless state, as she could not go to the law enforcing agencies, as that will eventually reach the ears of her parents who were unaware of the relationship. On the other hand, the post was getting more views and she was being called from unknown numbers.
Around this time, she came across the Facebook-based group named ‘Justice For Women, Bangladesh’ (JFWB). She shared her story with the group admins while seeking help from them.
‘Once she contacted us, we began checking up on the websites where the photos and information were posted,’ says Ifreet Zahin Kunjo, founder of the group. Using their knowledge about websites, the group managed to block these sites and later, with the help of law enforcement agencies they filed a case against the boy with Uttara police station in July, 2015. Consequently, the perpetrator was sentenced to jail for several years by a Dhaka court, informs Kunjo.
The group, comprised of around 50 people with some law enforcement officers and lawyers, was launched in January of this year. Till date, the group has played a key role in sending 17 perpetrators, besides Shimana’s former boyfriend, to jail for harassing women in similar ways across the country.
ino02The organisation was initiated with an aim to legally help women who become the victims of cyber harassment and crimes. ‘So, we have dealt with more than 250 cases in past 10 months. ‘Unfortunately, every day we get around 5 complaints from the women,’ shares MH Tanvir of JFWB, highlighting the alarming rise of such harassment in the virtual world. Tanvir, a lawyer, has been voluntarily working with the group right after its establishment.
Sharing the background story of the group, the founder of the group Kunjo says that through her involvement in many social projects she has come to know a number of sincere officials from the Bangladesh Police. ‘After my HSC in 2012, I often referred some victims of harassments and violence to these police officers who did their best to help them,’ says Kunjo, who is currently a second-year student of a private medical college in Mymensingh.
Usually the victims can communicate or seek help from the group through different ways like posting her complaints on the group’s wall, sending messages to the inbox of the group or communicating through their hotlines.
Once a victim files a complaint to them, the admin panel and the case instruction panel of the group discusses the matter, informs Kunjo. ‘We also try to engage law enforcement agency officials especially from the police during the discussion…’ she says.
At this stage, they always keep in mind that to resolve the issue they need to communicate with the victim and the harasser/s. ‘If we realise that the latter is making a mistake and can be talked out of doing this, then we try to talk with him or her directly,’ she says while adding that those who are engaged in cyber-bullying or harassment of females in Bangladesh, are often very young, in their teens. ‘Most of them need to understand that what they are doing is a crime,’ she says.
Few days back, this group came across a group of school-boys from Gazipur who were making ‘troll-pictures’ by demeaning girls and often made these viral. Later, JFWB shut down that page by campaigning against it. Referring to the activities of these school-boys, Kunjo says ‘If we took legal action against those boys then their lives would be ruined although most of them were unaware that what they were doing is a crime.’
But sometimes the group fails to resolve the problems by communicating. This is when they send some of their local volunteers to help the victim to file a case with the local police. The group shares that currently they have thousands of volunteers based all across the country.
In some cases, they also engage lawyers to cases, to take legal actions. Once the verdict is pronounced by judges, the group charges a minimal sum of money for lawyer and other fees ranging between Tk 1,000 to 8,000, according to the group.
‘Actually in Bangladesh, most females from both rural and urban areas do not want to take legal actions against the perpetrators. Hence, a good number of such cases are usually not reported’ says Kunjo.
JFWB hotline
01721590943, 0167241218

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