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Pakistan’s first cyber harassment helpline is live from today. The helpline is an initiative by The Digital  Rights Foundation which is a brain child of social activist Nighat Dad. The Digital Rights Foundation through this helpline aims to empower the people in the cyber world and equip them with means to battle cyber harassment through their helpline.

Cyber Harassment Helpline; How It Works

Anyone facing cyber harassment or needs information about cyber security can call their helpline 0800-39393. The helpline can be reached from 9 am to 5 pm and after being greeted by the automated voice recording an operator will respond to the call. The operators are trained to provide the relevant guidelines for tackling any specific problem that the caller is facing. The foundation through their helpline provide a variety of services which include:

  • Providing emotional and psychological support to the victims
  • Guiding people how they can register a complaint with the FIA and how to take proper legal action for cyber harassment or cyber crime
  • Guiding people about digital security and can help by walking them through how they can make themselves more secure in the cyberspace
  • Helping in reporting fake social media accounts if the platforms are not responding
  • Referring to  the relevant authorities if any case is out of their expertise and helping with different problems like finding a lawyer or a shelter.

The foundation does not provide any legal assistance and it cannot register the harassment complaint on anyone’s behalf. The victims have to file the charges themselves with the agency, FIA. The helpline also provides anonymity to the caller and doesn’t record any telephonic conversation.

Is the Helpline Enough?

Cyber harassment is a serious issue that has engulfed Pakistani cyberspace. With newly introduced Cybercrime Law there is still need to form a culture that protects the victim of cyber harassment rather than ridicules it. FIA, the investigative agency for reporting cyber crimes is not a woman-friendly facility. The gender insensitivity present in our investigative agencies like Police and FIA is the main reason many of the crimes including cybercrimes go unreported.

A woman traumatised by the harassment that she has faced online hesitates to relay it to a man who may not be thoughtful towards her situation. Also, due to the cultural norms and values, it is easier for a woman to open about any such abuse to another woman instead of describing the intricate details to a man. Introducing legislation and assigning an agency don’t help anyone unless they are provided safe ground to open up about what happened to them. The helpline is the first step towards raising the issue of cyber harassment, but this issue needs to be addressed on different platforms that are supposed to provide relief to the wronged citizens.

The Internet penetration in Pakistan is growing with affordable internet broadband and mobile broadband, which makes the online world available to a significant proportion of the population. This increase in users who don’t have the awareness about what is appropriate and what is the violation of someone else’s rights lead to cyber harassment and cyber crimes. The Digital Rights Foundation through participating in different conferences and spreading awareness on this issue is helping towards the recognition of this issue but the question still stands that is it enough? Is the cyber harassment an issue of Nighat Dad and her foundation or is it the problem of our nation? If it is our collective issue then why are we all silent?

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