Exploring the experience of cyberstalking among female students in Tanzanian Universities: a case study of the University of Dar es Salaam.
Kavishe, Angela Mathias.
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With the current advancement in digitisation, cyberstalking is increasingly being recognised to be a serious global social challenge, especially among university students. This kind of online harassment is characterised by persistent pursuit and monitoring of a victim performed by a determined perpetrator that induces fear or feeling of being unsafe on the harassed person. Cyberstalking has been researched in developed countries. However, in Africa, limited information is available on cyberstalking. This study aimed at exploring how digital technology creates new platforms of violence on the university campus and how university institutional facilities are prepared to curb cyberstalking. The study was guided by the Technological Social Change, Feminists Theory and Cyberfeminism theories. The study was undertaken online at the University of Dar es Salaam, involving 424 female students and 15 key informants. Data were collected using an online questionnaire, interviews, and FGD, as well as documentary review. The 424 female students filled the questionnaire; among them, 30 who had experienced cyberstalking were interviewed while 30 others participated in OFGD; the 15 key informants were also interviewed. The study used a sequential explanatory mixed method. The findings indicate that 172 (40.6%) among the 424 respondents experienced cyberstalking. The cyberstalkers were mainly men who claimed intimate and sexual relationships with the female students. By using video and audio calls; they intimidated, sexually harassed and defamed in social media. Others hijacked victims’ identities and monitored victims’ movements and activities. The study found that these harassments were founded on the longstanding societal mentality that women are subordinate to men. These attitudes transpired in silencing women’s voices, exploiting their bodies in the physical world, and now the ICT enable harassment in cyberspace. The victimised female students reported having felt their right to privacy, freedom of expression, movement, and life were violated. The study found that online methods were sometimes accompanied by physical harassment such as rape and fraud. While all these happen, the University was unaware of the harassment practices and the impact to the university community and status of the institution. Therefore, the study recommends the need to challenge the existing gendered power relations which legitimise online violence.