This policy brief is a follow up to our documentation (March 2020 policy brief, Creating Safe Online Spaces for Women ) on cases of cyber harassment against women. In Kenya, online platforms have continued to provide options of perpetrating Violence Against Women in politics. This has discouraged women’s political participation and thus infringed on their political rights and processes. As such, policy outcomes are affected from the underrepresentation of women decision makers. With political tensions colliding with the covid 19 pandemic, a rise in cyberbullying among women politicians has been noted. Accordingly, KICTANet resolved to dedicate a special policy brief on women in politics. Specifically, the brief looks at how the online environment affects women’s political participation and highlights some of the policy provisions to deal with the issues.
The brief notes that the rise of online violence against women is as a result of increased usage of social media platforms during the stay-at-home period. Lockdown measures were introduced, limiting people’s movements, who then sought social media platforms for social and political interactions. The difference in online violence that women in politics experience compared to men, comes from societal norms that perceive men as leaders and women as subjects. Women are expected to play the prescribed societal gender roles such as taking care of their families. Violence against women, is couched in sexual morality where they are publicly judged on how they present themselves or appear online. However, women have also used the internet for innovative political engagements. Some have come up with long term hashtags and while others have online sessions where they engage with the electorate from time to time. These success stories are some of the developments that should motivate new women politicians to stay put in their online participation.
This brief calls for more capacity building initiatives in digital security for women politicians considering that not much ground has been covered in training politicians on digital safety. It further recommends that public institutions work jointly to ensure the implementation of 2/3rds gender rule as provided for in the constitution.