We all want to hop into modernity and advancement. This is probably the reason why we’re all so engrossed in social media – the place where we keep track of what’s on trend and what’s on top. According to the statistics revealed by Geeks in Cambodia in 2017, “Facebook has firmly established itself as the choice social media platform for Cambodian users with a total of 4.8million users recorded in 2017, amounting to a whopping 1.4 million growth since 2016.” And based on the same source, most of the users are youths aged between 18 and 34 year old.
But who among all these users are usually thinking about morals and ethics every time they log in to their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts? Who among these users consider these platforms as an opportunity to share goodness and not to challenge whoever negates their ideals?
Open Cyber Talk 2019 was held to answer these very important questions.
Held on March 17 at Tonle Bassac II Restaurant, Open Cyber Talk gathered hundreds of youths as well as internet users from 10 provinces across the country to know more about the responsibilities and risks faced by every netizen. Under the theme, “Opportunites and Risks of the Netizens in Cambodia”, the half-day workshop presented thought-provoking discussions on Data Protection, Online Security and Privacy, Fake News, Using Internet for Promoting Good Governance and Social Justice, Women and LGBT Online Bullying and Digital Security Clinic. The event is the result of the cooperation of Cambodia Youth Network, Cambodian Centre for Independent Media, CCHR, Klahaan, Central, STT, Cooperation Committee for Cambodia and other organisations.
Tim Malay, executive director of CYN, said that the objectives of the event were to show risks and opportunities of internet and social media users, to understand critically the roles of social media in good governance and to give technical support on digital security as well as to recognise fake news and threat against human rights.
All the participants were allowed to select their preferred topic, letting them decide for themselves which part of the world wide web and social media affects them the most. As one of the attendees, I chose “Women and LGBT Online Bullying”.
The session introduced well-experienced speakers Bunn Rachana, co-founder of Klahann (intersectional feminism organisation), and Noun Sidara, project coordinator on sexual orientation and gender identity project of CCHR.
Before highlighting the main factors leading to gender discrimination, Ms Rachana quoted the definition from Ministry of Women’s Affairs, “gender discrimination is an act of giving different value and approach to someone on the basis of his/her sex.” She added that violence against women and girls have always been a social dilemma.
“It is a big problem and it happens everywhere across the globe. According to the data found, 1/3 of women are vulnerable from the four forms of violence. But in Cambodia, 1/5 of women and girls aged 14 to 64 year old have expressed that they have been and are being abused by their intimate partners. The main factor is our culture that men can decide everything; but women should be fluffy, subservient and obedient. And it is rooted deeply in the code of conduct for girls. And it is taught strictly at home,” Ms Rachana explained.
Ms Rachana also noted that there is only a minor percentage of women playing leadership roles in politics and in the society. That is because Khmer culture see women as the ones to take care of the children and the household regardless of their potentials.
But things become worse if a woman behaves like a tomboy. She said, “Aside from being discriminated by their family, same sex lovers are also bullied and humiliated in different forms on social media and that becomes a factor to make them feel excluded from society as well as feeling victimised.”
She continued, “The viral cyberbullying tactics commonly seen in Cambodia are the following: sharing nude photos/video, faulty identity profiling, encouraging self-harm and/or suicide through body-shaming, fat-shaming, skin-colour shaming and bulling for being LGBTIQ individuals.”
Mr Sidara added that some bullying words such as ‘Kteuy’ that people like to use on Facebook towards LGBTIQ can intentionally and unintentionally result to depression to the affected people.
“In our society, LGBTIQ are oppressed mentally by social media and particularly by their families and relatives when they try to change their appearance – wearing tomboy clothing and cutting their hair short. Then, they try to hide their gender identity which may further harm them and cause depression or drive them to commit suicide.
“We can see forms of discrimination on social media and comedies. Comedians always take advantage of LGBTIQ as a joke while they have never thought it would negatively impact their emotions. Based on our research in 2015 in schools, about 80 percent faced depression and 37% of women attempted to commit suicide. And it becomes easier when social media is widely accessible.”
Before ending the panel discussion, the speakers reiterated a common but still unsolved problem: members of the LGBT community in Cambodia do not legal and psychological support when they get bullied or discriminated by society.
But while implementing laws to protect LGBT may take some time, individual mindfulness and compassion can and should start now.
“Cyberbullying and bullying can negatively impact the lives of all who are involved. And when not addressed, cyberbullying can have long-term mental health effects. But in reality, with the right interventions, cyberbullying against women, girls and LGBTIQ individuals can be addressed positively to lessen harm and the negative outcomes. And, it goes without saying that changing harmful social norms and attitudes are necessary in order to end all forms of discrimination against women, girls and LGBTIQ individuals and for women’s equality to be fully realised,” Rachana concluded.