Sexism, misogyny and homophobia forces women and gender diverse people off the internet. Illustration by Xzoni for GenderIT.

My idea for the podcast falls under how women and LGBTQI+ community are more vulnerable on online platforms. This includes women getting trolled for what they say, wear, and believe or for not saying, wearing, or believing as society expected. In this podcast, my guest, Juu – a digital security expert from Myanmar – and I highlight the sexism, misogynism, and homophobic practices online that are much more prevalent online since perpetrators can hide behind the screen and don't suffer the consequences. For example, a case of a woman being raped will be and is quickly dismissed with a victim-blaming attitude and protection of the perpetrator's actions but when a man goes through the same situation, it becomes an issue that feminists don't want to talk about, according to the group of people who dismissed the same case on a woman.

For this episode, we discuss further the reasons these are happening in Myanmar and what one can do about this to prevent or stand up against it. I offer my audiences in this episode to both understand the root causes of these and the solutions an individual can take to prevent such practices.


Nandar: Welcome to G-Taw Zagar Wyne. In this episode, I am sitting with a digital security expert, Juu, to discuss the challenges that women and LGBTQI+ community members face in the digital world. How can we, individually and collectively, support and work together to reduce the kinds of violence, bullying, and harassment and make the digital world a better and safer place for everyone? Juu has been sharing her knowledge with the next generation on how to build a secure digital world. Thank you for being here with us today. Please, introduce yourself to our audience. 

Juu: Hello, Mingalar!! I am Juu. I have been working for more than 3 years in digital security and digital education in Myanmar.  I have been working in MYEO as Curriculum Designer since Feb 2022 to the Present. I created the curriculum which included Cyber Security, Digital Literacy, and Capacity Building courses that aimed to promote well-being in digital skills and a professional career for all people in Myanmar. 

Nandar: Thank you for introducing yourself. Let's start with do you think men and women both have the same experience which is to say (opportunities and safety) in the digital world? I asked this coz in this outside world or in Myanmar particularly, misogyny, sexism, and gender discrimination are right in your face or it exists in our life like unwritten rules we have to live by? What is the digital world like for women, in your opinion? 

Juu: My short answer would be the digital world for women is pretty much the same as the outside world or it can even get worse in the digital world for them since the person who is doing them can feel untraceable. It can be highly vulnerable for women and girls. That’s why I think it is imperative that a substantial percentage of women become professionals and that companies work harder to grow and support them throughout their careers. so that women's and girls' cyber issues become a priority to focus on.  Not just in Myanmar, I mean, everywhere in the world. Because women and girls are the most targeted group for online harassment and bullying compared to cis-gender men. 

Nandar: As you mentioned earlier about women being more vulnerable online, I think I agree with that based on my own experiences online as well. Back in early 2018, when I was still using Facebook, there were people who sent me death threats and harassed me online for starting the Vagina Monologues show in Myanmar. In their words, I was a cultural ruiner and was brainwashed by white people. It was sad and funny that they accused me of those things and sent me death threats without even coming to the event once and understanding what the play was about. I feel like this is the problem of the digital world sometimes, it makes people feel that they can say whatever comes out of their mouths without any consequences. It is very alarming.  After the coup, revenge porn has also become a notorious tool for men to use to hurt their ex-partners without thinking about how it will affect them once they release the photo or text, or videos. I see this kind of injustice happening to women and girls, LGBTQI members, and people with disabilities. What do you think about it? I(sexual harassment, victim-blaming, revenge porn, cyberbullying, account hacking)

Juu: You are right. Unfortunately, not everyone in the world is tolerant of those with different backgrounds, lifestyles, and experiences, and marginalized groups frequently suffer the most as a result of this prejudice. 

Vulnerable members of society such as women, the LGBTQI community, and people with disability frequently experience bias in their neighborhoods and struggle to locate a space free from prejudice and unfavorable remarks. The LGBTQ community, individuals from various racial or ethnic backgrounds, and even those with physical or mental impairments may fall under this category. You can see a lot of examples of such discrimination and bully are prevalent. 

Recently I just found a man who was joking about a transgender woman’s dead name. It is a classic instance of direct harassment in which a target is harmed by having their old name revealed against their will. Members of the LGBTQIA community who may have changed their birth names for a variety of reasons, such as avoiding professional prejudice and physical danger, are most frequently outed via this strategy. A more popular example would be like you said men using revenge porn as a tool to harass women by posting nudes or sex tapes on various platforms. In Myanmar, Telegram has a group designated for such things to encourage such behaviors. 

Nandar: Yes, I agree with you. It is deeply troubling to learn that there are groups and individuals giving their time and energy to collectively harm vulnerable groups so that they can feel better about themselves. This is a deeply psychological issue, in my opinion. They should stop attacking women and LGBTQI+ who are living their lives as they like and start seeing therapists have a life on their own. Let's dive a little more into these challenges, I want to understand why the digital world becomes vulnerable for people like us and who is creating such challenges. Why is the digital world unsafe? How can we handle or manage it? 

Juu: Well, I think we all can agree that anything online can create some sort of usefulness and vulnerability. Online bullying is harmful and disturbing since it is anonymous or hard to trace. The anonymity leads people to think that they don’t have to suffer the consequences of the things they say or do online which is dangerous knowledge. It is also easier to commit than other forms of bullying because the aggressor doesn't have to physically confront their target.

It is challenging to control because the victim has no idea how many people (or hundreds of people) have viewed the messages or posts. A person could experience constant pain every time they check their computer or another device. 

Cyberbullying occasionally has serious, long-lasting repercussions, just like other types of bullying. It can be difficult and detrimental to one's mood, energy level, sleep, and diet to experience prolonged worry or agitation. It may also result in jitteriness, anxiety, or depression. Cyberbullying has a major negative impact on already existing mental health conditions like despair or anxiety. Students who have experienced cyberbullying could have trouble concentrating in class, affecting their performance.

Online sexual harassment is particularly likely to affect young women. Fully 33% of women under 35 and 11% of men under 35 reports having experienced online sexual harassment. Adults who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual are more likely to experience harassment online.

When someone gets online harassment, in reality, victims of cyberbullying may experience emotional distress as well as social, behavioral, and academic problems. Cyberbullying victims may experience depression, eating problems, a decline in social interactions, and a loss of interest in academics. Sometimes, in addition to other types of victimization, there is cyberbullying. Intimate relationship violence, harassment, stalking, and physical bullying are some possibilities for someone.

Nandar: I really think that anonymity like you said makes it very easy for people to think they don’t have to suffer the consequences. Not long ago, I was watching the news on BBC about a young Myanmar woman filmmaker who was talking about her work on women's rights issues, and after watching the video, I started going through the comments hoping that the interview or conversation will inspire people to say nice things about her work. Instead, I found out that they were commenting about her interview skills and other irrelevant matters. I was annoyed by that and took a pause and reflected that if this was a man interview, those comments wouldn’t be framed that way. This goes for the offline world as well. Men are not criticized the same as women are. The oldest tale or example would be every time a woman shared the story of #metoo aka harassment or assault or rape, the first thing people would say is why was she out at night, why was she wearing those clothes. So my question to you is how can we make such a platform a responsible and safe space for everyone? What are your suggestions for digital users about safety and peaceful engagement?

Juu: The objective of all safe spaces is the same: to provide a refuge of comfort to people who frequently experience discrimination in society. This objective holds whether we create safe spaces online or offline. Some claim that providing safe spaces online increases accessibility for underrepresented groups worldwide. 

If you feel unwelcome and unappreciated in society, your psychological and emotional health may suffer tremendously. Having a support network, such as an online community of trustworthy individuals, available to turn to can significantly improve one's sense of safety. 

Avoidance behaviors and social withdrawal may result from a person's mental health beginning to deteriorate. Online communities offer a positive alternative to this by enabling members to communicate with others who may have experienced similar things, helping them to realize they are not alone, and allowing them to openly express their emotions. So, I would like to suggest learning basic digital security steps. You can easily learn about them via youtube or many digital NGO organizations that are providing such services. 

Thousands of other machines may be connected to you when you use the internet, allowing you to exchange data and information, including personal data. It is essential to ensure that your device, your data, and your privacy are all as safe as possible. Do not share everything online just because you want to. Being selective of what you are sharing and who you are sharing with is crucial.

In a digitally secure setting, people can interact and share ideas without being concerned about security issues like data leaks. A lot of information is gathered by communities, including user-generated content and personally identifiable data. As a result, it is crucial to create a safe environment in your neighborhoods.

Lastly, please keep in mind that not everyone's comments or threats deserve a response. Be mindful of who you choose to respond to and who. 

Nandar: I really like what you said about being selective about what and with who you are sharing your information. I wish I had that knowledge when I was young and shared everything I had on my mind. Lastly, I want to hear your message to all those people who are doing online harassment targeting vulnerable groups. What message would you like to give them so that we can stop the harassment? 

Juu: Yes, for this question I would like to suggest for these people don’t know what harassment is or doing despite knowing what it is. As you know there are so many entitled men in Myanmar who thinks that harassment is their right and we need to continue raising awareness of what harassment and bullying are as well as gender discrimination, especially at this time. 

So my 1st message is that ,

Wasting people and disturbing people may feel like fun in the beginning but it will not make you happy for a longer period. So, please know that when you are harassing or taking people down, you are hurting a human being on the other side. 

Before commenting or sending a message, please think about how it will affect other people and more importantly, how making other people feel bad about themselves will make you feel better or make you a better person. Know that this is not a solution. Think before you speak or type or record a message to harass others.

And the second message is that, 

We all know bad things are easy to do but difficult to erase from our life. We don't need to be the best person, all we need is to just treat people like ourselves. If someone scares you, if someone distrusts you, if someone does something bad to you, let me know what you feel. I have one thing for sure. These are not good for you. I just want you to suggest, to be honest, I am also not a good person but I am proud of trying good things for myself and for people.

It is best not to do these things because these cases are unacceptable actions in human society.  If it gets worse, we need to take action through laws, rights, and activists. 

Nandar: Thank you for being in this conversation, Juu. This has been a fruitful conversation. Hope to see you soon. Thank you. 

Juu: Thank you for having me in this conversation. I really hope this is useful for those who are struggling in the digital world. See you soon, Ma Nandar.

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