Internet freedom and gender disparity

Published: July 19, 2018

Government’s attempts to limit digital content for the viewing pleasure of Pakistanis have been innumerable over the last decade. Blocking access to various media platforms on the internet, such as YouTube and Facebook, has been a favourite pastime of the PTA. If only other government agencies were as proactive, certain issues could be dealt with more tactfully than outright banning of the digital access to selected media. The continued interference in citizens’ access to information is akin to government actions of countries with a communist set-up and hurts the tenets of democracy. Free speech has been constantly attacked and with elections a few days away, gender disparity with regard to access to information will, once again, render much of the voting power and decisions to be taken by men.

On the gender parity index for access to the internet and owning mobiles, Pakistan ranks the lowest, favouring men by 266% and 121%, respectively. Women lag far behind in these two aspects, considering the upcoming polls, it is unacceptable given that many laws over the years have favoured men and it has usually been a gargantuan task to uproot them in a pull towards gender parity. Various policies towards women have long been governed and decided upon by men, requiring that improvements be made to incorporate more women in the political arena.

Digital policies of the last decade by various governments, be they democratic or dictatorial in nature, have been harmful to the country’s progress, deliberately ignoring that the internet is an educational outlet to provide more robust information on various topics. Ban on the use of certain websites and blocking of cellular services have appeared more as avaricious desires to exert control than being in the interest of people’s safety. Instead of thwarting security threats, the tactics have often led to more agitation among citizens, showing that they have a problem with the government always wanting to tell only its version of a story.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2018.

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