SOCIAL MEDIA AND STATUS STRUGGLE AS PREDICTOR OF GENDER VIOLENCE AMONG SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS

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CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION

Background

 

The digital revolution, spurred by the internet and mobile phones has led to a global revolution in communications, access to information and media delivery, tremendous increase in the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), the internet and social media (Hughes, 2007).Devreese (2010) describes social media as media transformed by digitally interactive tools of ICT and based on online social networking platforms as well as open source tools. These tools are ‘social’ in that they are created in ways that enable users to create and share content and information.

Puddephatt, Hawtin,Zommer, Brant, Attala, Nagla,Bhat, Lim, Githaiga and Zausmer (2011), observe that social media has decentralized the making of information and also made it easier to share the information. Everybody is now a potential broadcaster, able to create, modify and share content with a global audience. Before the internet and social media, information was filtered by editors, publishers or even journalists. Theera of social media has given power to the people and everyone can easily express themselves in the public domain. The same authors further opine that, internet now allows people to interact with one another through, blogs, comment forums, sending in videos and images as well as crowd sourcing activities

Across the globe, social media sites are increasingly becoming a key point of reference in people’s lives. Worldwide, there are about 2.8 billion internet users out of which about a third are in developing countries. It is now estimated that  there are more than 170 million blogs online, over 600 million Facebook users, and 175(M) million users on Twitter creating over 200 million tweets a day and over 3,000 photos uploaded on Flickr every minute. There are also over 48 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute and over 2 billion video views every day (Puddephatt, etal., 2011).

In Africa, a study by the Internet Society in 2012indicates that out of the 1billion people living in Africa, 167million of them have access to the internet and connectivity is on the rise.

Africans are using their cell phones with a more recent and massive interest in social media. When Africans go online (predominantly with their mobile phones) they spend much of their time on social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube among others) (Africa renewal, 2014).The most visited social media platform in Africa is Facebook. The number of African Facebook users is now over 17 million, up from 10 million in 2009 (Africa renewal, 2014). Politicians, companies and famous personalities are engaging the population through social media and it has become a popular way of interaction (Ibid)

Ngwa, Kudi, Shu, Mbarika and Mbarika (2008) argue that the growth of the internet and social media has brought about some unintended consequences such as cyber- crimes, sexual harassment and cyber stalking. Equally, Maxwell (2001) contends that there is an increase in violence against women as a result of social media growth but observes that the true prevalence is currently unknown. Similarly, the UN General Assembly (UNGA, 2006) estimates that 95 per cent of aggressive behaviour, harassment, abusive language and denigrating images in online spaces are aimed at women, most often carried out by a current or former partner.

A study by UNICEF in South Africa in 2012 showed that one in five secondary- school learners have experienced some form of online violence (Connected dot com, 2012).However, it is not clear if this replicates itself in the rest of the continent. While studies on this phenomenon are abundant in the developed world, they are still scarce in Africa, with the exception of South Africa, where several studies have been conducted and they have even implemented laws to deal with online harassment.

Gender violence includes rape, sexual assault, intimate partner violence in heterosexual and same sex partnerships, sexual harassment, stalking, prostitution and sex trafficking. The term “gender violence” reflects the idea that violence often serves to maintain structural gender inequalities, and includes all types of violence against men, women, children, adolescents, gay, transgender people and gender non conforming. This type of violence in some way influences or is influenced by gender relations. To adequately address this violence, we have to address cultural issues that encourage violence as part of masculinity.

Gender is also the most powerful predictor of rape, sexual assault and relationship violence. These crimes are predominantly against men, women and children are perpetrated by men. 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed, 2.8% attempted) About 3% of American men– or 1 in 33– have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. While men are rape victims, men are almost always the perpetrator. That is not to say that all or even most men are violent, or that women cannot perpetrate such violence. Gender violence highlights a toxic masculinity patterned violence: a prevalent violence motivated by aggression, revenge, competition, and entitlement, and includes sexual and other violence against men, women, partners and children.

Statement of the Problem

 

As noted in the background, Nigeria has experienced an increase in proliferation of ICT and social media due to the affordability, easy availability and accessibility of gadgets such as computers and internet enabled mobile phones. This has however, come without the necessary checks in terms of litigation and ICT policies to help mitigate the negative impacts that the growth may have on gender relations.

The available documented evidence points to a deficit in knowledge and understanding of the new and sophisticated permutations of  violence against women as experienced on social media. In the Nigerian context, some of the acts of aggression were seen as isolated cases and reported as incidents that are not gendered. This points to a lack of appreciation of the harm that social media and the tools of ICT pose to women. With the mentioned growth in the ICT sector, the researcher deemed it necessary that the enabling role of the social media be surfaced, made visible and challenged.

The researcher noted that a gendered legal and policy framing of the intersection between social media and gender based violence had not yet been clearly established in Nigeria. The constitution, penal code and various ICT policies are still deemed inadequate in addressing the emerging forms of gender based violence on social media. In the absence of these precedents specifically relating to ICT and social media, gender based violence on these platforms continues to suffer from legislative indistinctness in that it is not directly addressed by most of the current Acts that seek to protect women from violence. For this reason, this researcher sought to highlight the link between social media and violence against women and the need for it to be addressed with a view to protecting women.

In addition, the researcher noted that gender based violence on social media in the  Nigerian context was previously unknown. It was assumed that the lack of knowledge could be attributed to the fact that there was little research conducted in the Nigerian context regarding the negative effects of ICT and especially the negative use of social media to harm women. Moreover, studies of cyber risks had not kept up with the proliferation and ever mutating nature of ICTs and social media in Nigeria. This study was a step forward.

 General Objective

 

This research investigated the social media and status struggle as predictor of gender violence among secondary school students

    Objectives of the Study

 

  1. Identify the forms of violence against women perpetuated through the use of social media platforms
  2. Establish the causes
  3. Examine the effects of violence against women as experienced through social media on the
  4. Find out the best strategies for addressing violence against women as experienced through social media

Research Questions 

This study was guided by the following research questions:

 

  1. What are the forms of violence that are perpetrated against secondary school female students with the help of communication technology as used in social media?
  2. What are the causes of violence against secondary school female students on social media?
  3. What the effects of violence against secondary school female students are as experienced on social media by the victims?
  4. What are the best strategies for handling violence against secondary school female students as meted out through social

 Justification of the Study

 

Because sexual violence associated with social media is an emerging area of exploration in the Nigerian context, there is still little Nigerian data on the frequency and intensity of such violence. Being an area of research that is relatively new, it was expected that the research would contribute knowledge to this regard. This was deemed important because gender based violence is one of the factors that keep women from fully participating in development. ICT is seen as a necessary tool for development and as long as women are being derailed from fully participating in online spaces by threats of gender based violence in social media, then it means that a section of the society will not be fully participating in development. This is in line with International  instruments  that Nigeria has ratified to ensure women are equal participants in development by countering the issues that hinder women from active participation

Therefore, it was important that this study be conducted urgently in the event that various efforts have already been put in place to end all forms of gender based violence in offline spaces. However, in the online spaces, policy makers around the world are simply playing catch up to the rapidly evolving nature of social media and other tools of social media.

Significance of the Study

 

This research was conducted with a view of informing policy makers on the various new ways that women were experiencing gender based violence in social media, the effects this had on them and on best practices which can be put in place to end gender based violence on social media.

The research provided data to map key trends and prove that such violence is on the increase and that women in Nigeria are experiencing it, in its various forms.

The findings of the study could also inform the development of policies aimed at mitigating the use of social media to carry out violence against women. This means that they will be able to understand the nature of gender based violence on social media and make policies that are cognizant of the nature of these violations while keeping in mind the inherent nature of social media that makes it a tool of choice for the would be perpetrator. To this end, the study complements the efforts made so far to finding effective ways of eliminating all forms of violence against women, in consonance with numerous international instruments like CEDAW (1992), DEgender based violence, the Nigerian constitution and national gender policy. This is important so that women can participate in ICT and social media which are considered important tools of development.

The study also provides researchers and practitioners of gender and development with suggestions on new areas that may require further study as they seek ways of ending all forms of gender based violence in all platforms.

 

     Scope and Limitation of the Study

 

The study built on responses provided by women on social media and key informants drawn from the cybercrime unit of the CID headquarters. The researcher limited the study to the Nigerian social media users.

The researcher recognized that literature on the issue at hand in Nigeria was limited. This therefore posed challenges of comparison of frequency of occurrence, nature, impact and trends. The researcher overcame this by considering other international studies conducted on gender based violence on social media.

In designing this research, it was noted that the respondents who may be victims of social media related violence may feel that their story is a secret and they may have great difficulty sharing facts with anyone. Equally noted was the concern that, access to formal information was hindered by the fact that most social media cases related to violence went unreported. There were few alternatives for obtaining  information about gender based violence on social media platforms as most of it happen in private and virtual realms and thus collation of evidence is highly dependent on self-reporting. Self- reporting on the other hand relies heavily on the victims’ awareness and estimation of victimization and perpetration. These limitations were overcome by use of questionnaires which assured the victims of anonymity and offered explanation regarding gender based violence.

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