Women were already under attack in Nicaragua’s social media networks before the April 2018 civic rebellion but following the crisis this violence increased by some 73.1%, reveal the statistics in a study entitled “Violencia de género a través de la tecnología” (Gender Violence through Technology), published by the Nicaraguan Foundation for Economic and Social Development (Funides).
“There’s been an escalation of violence towards women, and it’s understandable, since the state itself is reproducing such violence, authorizing citizens to exercise it; and there’s a society where impunity reigns. Clearly the groups that have been historically discriminated against are going to be the first ones affected,” states feminist Maria Teresa Blandon.
According to data from the study, the major expressions of aggression towards women have been threats and offensive comments, followed in frequency by postings with false or personal information aimed at disparaging the women’s views.
“These forms of aggression tell us the same thing as the assaults we experience in the street, at home, and anyplace where someone violent, misogynist and macho threatens our lives and physical integrity. Nicaragua is a very violent society,” adds Maryorit Guevara, a journalist and a feminist.
Add to this the fact that 32.5% of the women consulted in the investigation affirmed that the threats received in the digital world evolved into physical violence. For that reason, the impact of threats on social media networks or messaging apps shouldn’t be shrugged off.
“The majority of the attacks in the social networks come from fake profiles; there are very few cases of people that do such things using their own profiles. The risk is greater because you don’t know where they’re coming from. Because of this, none of the threats can be taken lightly, we must take precautionary measures and denounce them publicly,” Guevara suggests.
Although digital violence, in general, has increased since the crisis broke out in Nicaragua, the threats that men receive are different from those received by women. In the case of the men, they’re focused on threatening arrest or accusing them of being “coup promotors”. In contrast, for women, they expose their personal lives, threaten them with rape or try to make them look ridiculous.
“There have been many documented cases since the crisis where activists, journalists, and women in the opposition are threatened with rape, together with their children. In the journalism trade, including myself, they threaten to burn our houses, kill us and rape us. Meanwhile, the men are confronted with insults, or offensive comments,” Guevara notes.
This violence isn’t coming exclusively from those tied to the regime. There’s also a sector of those in the opposition that use the social media networks to attack and diminish women, says Blandon, although the Ortega fanatics are more sadistic in their comments.
“I believe that the red and black (FSLN) militants are more brutal in the type of threats they make towards women that they consider to be against them, the threats are grittier. But in the case of the blue and white (opposition), there are some very decent people, but there are others who have no scruples about ridiculing women for their bodies and their sexuality, and about using their private lives as a form of aggression. This doesn’t surprise us as feminists, because effectively the cultural womb of this society is profoundly sexist and macho,” she states.
Digital Violence is downplayed
According to an analysis done by the Association for Progress in Communications regarding digital violence on a world scale, there are three types of women whose rights are violated. The first is the one who is in a relationship with a violent person; the second is the survivor of physical or sexual violence, and the third is the professional woman who has a public profile and moves within the communications realm. In this last case, they’re accused or judged for their private lives or their bodies and not for their work.
Digital violence against women has additional consequences on mental health. According to data from Funides, over 60% of women attacked in this way suffer from fear, anxiety, insomnia or stress as a result. However, the topic of violence towards women in the physical and digital environments seems to lack importance for the population and for those who make the decisions.
“The topic of violence against women or their rights doesn’t move a great public. Audiences aren’t interested in reflecting on this topic. Not only didn’t it interest them before April 2018, now the excuse is that it’s not the time to speak of this,” declares Maryorit Guevara, also the author of a blog: El Blog de tu Madre (Your mother’s blog).