Settling Scores: Cyber bullying and Online harassment in Nepal

July 10, 2016 , by Anura Shrestha, Leave your thoughts

 Settling Scores: Cyber bullying and Online harassment in Nepal

The Saturday clouds hung low in the atmosphere as the participant speakers for DREAMS Roundtable slowly started filling in the small yet spacious hall at Bikalpa Art Centre, Pulchowk, Kathmandu. The weather was probably sending the indication of a leisurely weekend, but for the participants, the topic was far from leisure. For the first phase of the Roundtable series to be organizedby DREAMS online magazine, the topic for the discussion was “Cyber bullying and online harassment”.

Cyber bullying, cyber stalking and trolling have rapidly become more subtle and prevailing forms of harassment in the cyberspace. From spreading malicious rumors, sending anonymous threats to engineering embarrassing doctored photographs with the intent to cause ‘harm’, it can occur anywhere via email, texts, cell phones, and social media websites, and anytime with potentially hundreds and thousands of people involved. And, it does not come off as a surprise that the Nepalese society is also treading in the same direction. Therefore, with the objective of uncovering and understanding this pivotal issue from a both experiential and legal context, DREAMS brought in together an assembly of people from different sectors for an interactive round-table session.

The Roundtable was attended by Pranika Koyu, Founding Member at Chaukath, Arpan Shrestha, Freelance Cross-media Producer, Subin Mulmi, Lawyer at Forum for Women, Law and Development, Bhumika Shrestha,Transgender Activist, Aakar Anil, Blogger at Aakarpost, Baburam Aryal, President at Internet Society Nepal Chamber and Chairperson at Centre for Law and Technology Pvt Ltd, Samiriddhi Rai, Musician and Prabin Subedi, Founding Partner at Paramount Legal Advisory Services and it was moderated by Asmita Manandhar, DREAMS editor.


After small introductions and light shuffling around, the moderator set off with her first set of questions on cyber bullying and personal perspectives were set in motion as the participants replied in turns. These definitions were to build a base for a far more intense discourse in the succeeding rounds. Some highlighted views included the sense of dominance that a user tries to establish over the cyberspace that stems from his shield of ‘anonymity’- a trait that has a way of bringing out the harsh, judgmental streak in strangers who would never belittle another in person. Similarly, the magnitude of trolling carried out and vested interest or intent of a said bully are among a few indicators to comprehend the level of cyber bullying that appears in various forms; namely-harassment, flaming, exclusion, outing or masquerading.


The conversation soon steered into the legal side with the lawyers displaying disappointment over not being able to create space for the victims in the regard to protection law. The group went back and forth a lot on drawing a line between freedom of expression and cyber bullying as the demarcation is still not clear in the present day law. Much was discussed on bringing reforms to procedural mechanism as there is no proper provision to determine the gravity of an offense committed followed by the punishments to be exacted. Cross check the gravity, before diving into lobbying?


The speakers also took turns in sharing their personal stories on personal attacks turned malicious upfront; Subedi, Mulmi and Rai, all had their own personal experiences when it came to dealing with cyberspace bullying. They had their public spaces targeted with mudslinging comments and also explained how they dealt with the psychological trauma they were exposed to in the aftermath of such one-way attacks on Facebook or post waging a war-of-word on Twitter. Usually, in social media, blowing a small issue out of proportion and carrying out vile attempts to de-fame a person has been seen as a recurrent pattern amongst majority of the public figures’ profiles.


The conversation then jumped to look at the issue from a gender-wise perspective, with the question of whether there lies a bigger divide between cyber bullying aimed at men and the other two sexes. The answer was unanimous. Bringing up examples of mainstream media journalists, the group explored the subjective and objective treatment of women and LGBTI in comparison to their male counterparts. Similarly, speakers were quick to point out the flaw in our own social structure that justifies the notion of bigotry and misogyny whose culture has carried over and is evident in the cyber domain as well.

Towards the end of the session, the speakers measured up on their degree of participation in these online platforms. For the active ones, it was a love-hate relationship, for the middle-men it was a relative space for branding and career prospects while for the remaining, it was pointless to dive in. However, regardless of one’s choice of exploiting the usage of social media, bullying and harassment is a big no-no. And according to the speakers of the Roundtable, the most-effective way to be a part of a solution against such malicious practices is to be proactive and not shy away from legal remedies if necessary.

(DREAMS will be publishing a full text on this two hour closed round table discussion accompanied with video snippets.) 

Words by Anura Shrestha
Read more from Anura here
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