Violence against LGBTQIA+ people, and in particular transgender people, has increased worldwide. New research by the Feminist Internet Research Network looks into the experiences of transgender, non-binary and gender-diverse (TNBGD) people living in Botswana, Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda to find that homophobic and transphobic online crimes against them are underreported and that they are excluded from interventions and responses to online gender-based violence.
The spike in hate crime-related murders is a result of a “culture of violence” that emerges from transphobia and intersecting discrimination on the basis of racism, sexism and homophobia. Police reports and crime statistics do not accurately reflect the degree of transphobic crime, due to the misgendering of transgender people by police, the criminal justice system and the media. The newly launched Left Out Project Report addresses these gaps and proposes new inclusive frameworks to conceptualise online gender-based violence.
“The internet is not safe for us”
The study focuses on the African continent, where LGBTQIA+ rights are in a dismal state. As researchers Nyx McLean and Thurlo Cicero report, “violence against LGBTQI+ people is a critical area of concern for the African continent. Where countries do afford some state protections, these protections do not always translate from paper to people, in that high rates of homophobic and transphobic violence are still found.”
Most of the participants interviewed emphasised that the internet “is not safe for them.” “I have so many experiences facing online gender-based violence that I can’t count them,” a transwoman from Rwanda said. “Every time I open most of my social media apps, you will find an insult. It’s a daily thing,” commented a transwoman from Uganda, a country that recently passed a transphobic, homophobic law that was the focus of a piece published on GenderIT.
This study found violence directed towards TNBGD people to be consistent with the definition of online gender-based violence. The violence experienced by participants was found to be in four key forms: dismissal of gender identity, sharing of images without permission, hateful comments, and threats of violence and death.
Another key research finding is the fact that online violence against transgender, non-binary and gender-diverse people’s experiences exists within the LGBTQIA+ community as well. Participants shared that they had “experiences from lesbian and gay people of dismissal, deadnaming, misgendering, sharing of images without permission, and stalking, to name a few,” which challenges the discourse that considers the LGBTQIA+ community as homogeneous.
Keeping all these experiences in mind, this study proposes a broader, more inclusive and intersectional framing of online gender-based violence to imagine better protections for people who largely continue to be excluded in interventions and responses to this type of violence. It includes recommendations for people from these communities to increase their safety, allies helping fight online gender-based violence, LGBTQIA+ organisations interested in supporting TNBGD people, civil society and development organisations, and social media and digital tech platform.
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