International Women’s Day 2023: Focus for WHER Initiative

GLOBAL THEME: DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality.



If we just consider the positive aspects of digital spaces, we would be discounting the negative experiences that women and girls have in these environments, particularly queer women, girls, gender non-conforming people, and queer women with disabilities. This is not to imply that we are uninformed of the many positive aspects of digitization, but when contrasted with the harm it has inflicted on women and girls both individually and collectively, one is left bewildered and forced to wonder whether the good is actually positive or merely in certain contexts.


To mark the International Women’s Day 2023, Women’s Health and Equal Rights Initiative has taken to highlighting the digital actions that mar the safety of queer women, girls and gender non-binary persons and highlight the different ways digitalization adversely affect them and their digital safety.


Bearing Nigeria in mind for instance where homophobia and ignorance are in high rise, the safety of queer women have been greatly jeopardized and their freedom of speech truncated by digital bullying and in extreme cases they experience different degrees of gender base violence.

When conversing with queer women, girls and gender non conforming individuals in Nigeria it would not be a shock to realise how often these individuals experience digital violence and GBV especially on the internet and social media platforms, most times by total strangers who take it upon themselves to met “judgement” on anyone who dares to be different or disagree with popular opinions.


Queer women and gender non-conforming persons who are outspoken about their sexuality receive the sharpest edge of this sword as they are being subjected to different level of violence which sometimes even transcend to physical attacks and bodily harms.

Some of the following are some of the types of Digital Gender based Violence experienced by queer women and girls in Nigeria: 


  • Internet Bullying: Many outspoken queer persons in Nigeria are not strangers to digital and physical bullying especially in relation to their sexuality and expressions. This abuses can range from shaming to threat to life and safety. Issues as these has kept many queer women mute on the internet and social media platforms because who would be threatened with rape, kidnap and sometimes even death and still feel safe to engage anyone either digitally or offline but there still women and non-binary persons who weather the storm and still remain as vocal as possible.
  • Female Sexualisation: Sexualising women is not a strange digital behaviour in our clime and age. On a daily basis there are different pictures, videos and different sexual pictures of women objectifying them for the different parts of their bodies either for having a “desirable” size or for not meeting the “societal standard”. Most of these contents are mostly circulated to create comic relief without considering the effect the popularity of these contents does to the muse. It has been recorded in recent times of how the internet has ruined the reputations of many females and gender non- conforming individuals and yet there has not been an established authority to punish such violations.
  • Body Shaming: social media body shaming has become a global issue as this takes place even in developed countries believed to have citizens who are more informed and who even live in much sane climes. Women have consistently been put on mental podiums where their bodies are analyzed by uninformed individual who live on the assumption that all a woman has to be is “sexy” and all pictures they share on their digital spaces should meet a certain criteria on their choosing. There has been occasion where even different women, including those who are locally and globally popular have been either asked to lose or add weight; some even get comments that suggest that they get a surgery to correct some bodily frails. Taunting comments like this has been proven to drive women and girls into depression and some even to death either by suicide or due to wrong choices in covering the frails.
  • Stalking: Digital spaces has been over the years fingered as the primary sources of stalking cases recorded by women and girls, this is because it gives unregulated access to every user including those who have put women and girls through the trauma of having to be extra vigilant than their male counterparts. It is no news that there have been women, girls and non-binary persons who have been emotional and physically harmed by their online stalkers and some has even met their untimely death through same means. On many occasions the perpetuators of these crimes go scot free as there are limited or no ways to track their movements and as such they move on to another victim hence leaving women to cater for their own digital safety and security.
  • Disenfranchisement: the United nations has identified that the ratio of women in tech when compared to their male counterparts is still less than average and as such is using the International Women’s Day 2023 to highlight the issues that dwindle women’s participation in tech and this they have acknowledge to lack of tech opportunities available to women especially those in third world country. Prior to this day however, there have been reluctant efforts by global authorities in highlighting these issues and creating enabling environment for women and girl to participate in techs and similar careers. One of the notable benefits of encouraging women into tech would be that they would customize digital spaces to cater for the safety of their gender considering that they understand the digital insecurities prevalent in the said space that has led many women, girls and persons of the non-binary spectrum to either stay totally away from the digital spaces. This is because when women are in the decision making processes of digital service providers issues concerning women’s safety and security would be highlighted and implemented

These and many other digital activities infringe on the digital safety of women and girls especially those of sexual minorities and extensively causes deny them the utmost benefit of the digital and social media spaces.


Call to Action

It is not enough to celebrate Women’s Day or call for equity if there are no practical plans to achieve them or queer women being spurred to take up spaces without laws and policies that guarantee their safety in the spaces they occupy. Nobody of any gender or identify would thrive in any space where their safety and security is marred or no assured therefore, the government of Nigeria and global bodies should consider the following to ensure the safety of queer women and girls in digital spaces both locally and globally.

  • Create social media tracking tools regulated by independent agencies where complaints of digital safety can be reported and tracked.
  • Create implementable digital safety and security policies backed by laws.
  • Include more women/queer women in digital policies and decision making bodies
  • Amplify digital safety etiquettes amongst users of digital spaces
  • Restrict the uses of abusive, intimidation and derogatory languages amongst users of all digital spaces
  • Create enabling environment and intention supports for women in tech and prospective females in tech.

There is no equity if the rights of queer women, girls, persons with disabilities and gender non-conforming person are not recognized alongside their peers. Women should be celebrated with the inclusion of all their diversities and the different minority spectrums they embody.

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