The annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign that runs from 25 November to 10 December deals with several aspects of the issue of gender based violence. The aspects that seem to be missing is one that deals with the queer community.
I wanted to raise the issue of how we use social media in thinking about violence in our communities. Given the homophobia in Ethiopia, it is not easy for queer people to form romantic relationships in the way that it is for heterosexual people. Most of the romantic relationships we build are thus initiated through connections on social media. What does asking for consent mean on social media?
Even if we are eager to connect with someone on social media, I believe the first thing that I should do is receive their consent. The fact that we are friends on Facebook does not give me the right to keep texting at all hours.
Asking for consent when reaching out on social media
Even if we are eager to connect with someone on social media, I believe the first thing that I should do is receive their consent. The fact that we are friends on Facebook does not give me the right to keep texting at all hours. Is the person we want to write to OK with it? When we send a greeting and the other person does not respond, do we wait until they respond or do we keep bothering them? A friend once told me that someone threatened them when they didn’t respond to their text by saying “you better respond or I will out you”. Most discussions about violence against women are about physical assault and rape. However, while issues revolving around social media use might seem inconsequential, they are important and must be discussed by the queer community. Respecting someone’s “no” with humility is a sign of greatness. We have to respect other people’s needs and requests in the same way that we want ours to be respected.
The other issue is the sending of photos – private photos or pornography – without permission. Cyberflashing, the unwanted sharing of nudes, is an assault. Queer women receive these photos from straight men and some queer women also recieve these photos from other queer women. This is an assault. Why does one need to send these photos without consent? What is the message? How can we learn to treat each other with respect in our small village?
We lack legal protection as queer people but can we protect eachother?!
I hope this small article will lead to a discussion between friends and lovers.