The Stream

Cyber harassment in Pakistan

How women are fighting back.

Imagine you’re scrolling through Facebook, when suddenly a message pops up from someone claiming to have explicit photos of you.  They demand money, or threaten to publicise the photos on all your social media accounts. Incidents like these are not uncommon for women in Pakistan, and options for seeking justice are limited.


Last year, more than 3,000 cyber crimes were reported to the Pakistan Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). 45 percent of those targeted were women using Facebook.  Abuse online takes many forms – from being blackmailed by hackers with sensitive pictures to threats of physical violence and rape. Experts say increased access to the internet and social media has added another dimension to gender based violence in Pakistan. Though there are few statistics available, anecdotes suggest online threats are increasingly turning into physical threats in real life. Fear of disgrace in the conservative society can isolate women from social circles and family members, and as a result they often stay silent, and many incidents go unreported. 


Human rights activist, and lawyer, Nighat Dad is at the forefront in the fight for women’s digital rights in Pakistan. Dad saw that women who are victims of online harassment often have nowhere to turn when they are being threatened, so earlier this month she launched the country’s first ever hotline as part of the Digital Rights Foundation. According to the organisation, more than half of the complaints they receive are about the FIA and how it responds to them.  


On Tuesday, we’ll discuss online harassment in Pakistan and how women are fighting back. 

In this episode of The Stream, we speak with: 

Nighat Dad @nighatdad
Founder, Digital Rights Foundation

Amna Nasir @amnanasir100
Writer, Feminism in India

Sana Saleem @sanasaleem
Co-Founder & Director, Bolobhi

Rabia Mehmood @Rabail26
Researcher & Journalist

What do you think? Record a 30-second video or leave your thoughts in the comments section below.