Calls flood in after Dhaka police launch women’s cyber support

Calls flood in after Dhaka police launch women’s cyber support
An ‘integrated campaign’ is needed to limit violence against women. (Reuters)
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Updated 19 November 2020

Calls flood in after Dhaka police launch women’s cyber support

Calls flood in after Dhaka police launch women’s cyber support
  • The launch of the women’s cyber support unit follows legislation to introduce the death penalty for convicted rapists

DHAKA: Two days after launching an all-female team to combat online abuse targeting women, Bangladeshi police say they have received almost 1,000 complaints of cyber harassment.

“The phones are ringing constantly. We are receiving calls from women all over the country,” Nasrin Akter, assistant superintendent of the police cyber support for women (PCSW) unit, told Arab News.

“Since launching the service, we have registered around 1,000 phone calls,” she added.

The cyber support unit was initiated by Bangladeshi police chief Benazir Ahmed following growing public concern at a rise in gender-based violence and cybercrimes against women.

“Around 68 percent of women in the cyberspace have been victims of cybercrimes. Of these, 73 percent have been subjected to cyberbullying or harassment,” Ahmed said this week.

Police hope the unit will encourage women to report digital abuse, including “revenge porn,” misuse of social media content and blackmail, since complainants will share their personal details with an all-women team instead of men.

“Although we had several specialist units to deal with cybercrimes, there was none to help women and children exclusively,” Sohel Rana, assistant inspector-general of police, told Arab News. 

According to the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, there are more than 100 million active internet users in the country. Mobile internet use is believed to be limited to 33 percent of men and 16 percent of women.

Rana said that with a steady increase in internet use, it was important to create an “exclusive” space where women could voice issues related to cybercrime.

“A lot of the complaints are about harassment. We register the complaints and provide necessary legal advice,” he said. 

The unit employs 12 police officers who provide support to victims from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. 

“We receive complaints through the hotline and our Facebook page. In some cases, we provide instant solutions. But if the case requires further investigation, we refer them to the nearest police station to file an official complaint,” Akter said. 

In all cases, the “identity of the complainant is kept confidential.”

The launch of the women’s cyber-support unit follows legislation to introduce the death penalty for convicted rapists.  

Bangladesh was hit by nationwide protests after two gang-rapes in the country’s Noakhali and Sylhet districts.

However, activists say that neither the death penalty nor the launch of the cyber unit will “change the reality,” citing a spike in rape cases in the past month. 

According to one media outlet, 183 rape incidents were reported in the country in the four weeks to Nov. 13 — a 58 percent increase on the previous month.  

Women and gender experts welcome the police initiative, but are calling for an “integrated campaign” to limit violence against women and children. 

“Many women don’t know the proper uses of social media platforms. They don’t have any idea how to protect themselves from abuse,” Prof. Tania Haque, of Dhaka University, told Arab News.  

“We need to focus on eliminating this sort of crime through a massive awareness campaign,” she added.


Thousands killed in Ethiopia’s conflict, Tigray side asserts

Updated 2 min 1 sec ago

Thousands killed in Ethiopia’s conflict, Tigray side asserts

Thousands killed in Ethiopia’s conflict, Tigray side asserts
  • Ethiopian forces over the weekend announced they had “full control” of the Tigray capital, Mekele, a city of a half-million people

NAIROBI, Kenya: Several thousand combatants have been killed in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region, an official with the fugitive regional government has asserted, although claims remain difficult to verify a month after the fighting erupted between Ethiopian and regional forces.
Getachew Reda, a senior adviser to the Tigray leader, in an interview with Tigray TV aired Thursday urged young people and others in the region to “rise and deploy to battle in tens of thousands” days after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed over the weekend declared victory.
With the leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front on the run in rugged territory, fears of a drawn-out conflict continue. But with communications and transport links still largely severed to the region of 6 million people, it’s difficult to know the situation on the ground, including the extent of popular support for the TPLF and the number of people killed.
“Our capacity to resist ultimately depends on the support we get from our people,” Getachew said. “It is possible to have the scenario where we stop everything and turn all the people into soldiers.”
He didn’t say how many people are actively fighting but said “our army is doing amazing things with limited numbers,” and he claimed there had been tens of thousands of deaths among Ethiopian forces and those from neighboring Eritrea, which the TPLF insists is also involved. Ethiopia’s government denies that.
Getachew also acknowledged casualties on the TPLF side but didn’t say how many.
Ethiopian forces over the weekend announced they had “full control” of the Tigray capital, Mekele, a city of a half-million people. Getachew said their side had made a “strategic withdrawal” from the city to minimize destruction.
It is not clear how many people were killed as Ethiopian forces moved in on Mekele, but the International Committee of the Red Cross over the weekend said the city’s largest hospital had run out of body bags and staff suspended other services to focus on the wounded.
Ethiopian government spokesman Redwan Hussein didn’t immediately respond to a question about the current estimated death toll in the conflict.