There is need for regulation and monitoring of social media platforms and the medium cannot be allowed to turn into a “weapon of misogyny and harassment” against women in the name of freedom of expression, a top Indian-origin UN Women official has said. UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri voiced concern over the growing prevalence of cyber-bullying, trolling and voyeurism, saying that such threats are “magnified” for women and girls and pose a big risk for them.
“We are very much in favour of regulation and monitoring of the world wide web and different platforms that exist like Facebook to say that you cannot, in the name of freedom of expression, allow this medium to be turned into another weapon of misogyny, harassment and violence against women and girls,” Puri told PTI.
She said technology is a very powerful medium that can help fight stereotypes and the online platforms can be used for positive campaigning and creating positive social norms as well as for encouraging voice participation and women’s leadership across different sectors. “We very much call for bridging the digital divide for women and girls,” she said. Puri also described as “worrying” the huge wage gap that exists between men and women for equal pay for work of equal value.
Citing the figures for India, she said women’s equal participation in the economy can further increase GDP by 27 per cent. She expressed concern that the female labour force participation in India is declining and currently stands at 22 per cent.
Gender wage gap across sectors in the country is as high as 50-75 per cent and 93 per cent of the labour force is in the informal employment. Of this a large proportion is women who have little or no social protection. “The whole issue of recruitment, retention and promotion needs to be addressed in a totally different way because women face barriers at every stage,” she said.
“On the issue of unpaid care work, work at home is not considered work. It’s about changing the whole mindset about valuing women’s work as work. It may not be employment because it is not remunerative in the same way but it is not a question of paying but of recognising that that is work too,” she said.
Puri cited estimates to point out that the value of women’s unpaid care work and domestic work could be as high 16 trillion dollars but said it is appalling that this does not show up in any GDP. She welcomed the Indian Parliament approving a bill granting women working in the organised sector paid maternity leave of 26 weeks, up from 12 weeks now.
“How much of a difference does a longer maternity leave that gives women time to recover and be able to take care of a new born makes. A longer maternity leave is also very important for retention of the women employee,” she said.