MATADI — It’s one of the Internet revolution’s more twisted novelties. Men ready to do anything to get back at the girlfriend who left them or whom they suspect of cheating on them post naked photos or sex videos on social networks. And now, so-called “revenge porn” has also arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In the northern town of Matadi, a young woman from the northern town of Matadi was victimized when her partner published a nude photo of her online. After creating a Facebook account in the name of his girlfriend without her knowledge, the man uploaded a photo of her that he took during sex. “He did it to punish her because he thought she’d been unfaithful,” a friend of the couple says.
But like others, the young woman filed a criminal complaint with the help of a local women’s group, and the man has been held for two months in a Matadi jail awaiting trial.
“Even if a woman has been unfaithful, she doesn’t deserve this,” says Annie Mbadu, an official with the group Women and Development. “How many men have never cheated on their girlfriend? By doing so, they disgrace and objectify all women.”
During a meeting last month at Matadi’s “Maison de la Femme” (a regional women’s center), local women spoke out about what one characterized as “cyber-criminality.”
“Uploading a nude photo online, even if it is an act of vengeance, is an offense and a sign of weakness. No woman deserves to be humiliated in such a way by a man,” one woman said. “The law must be severely enforced.”
Cherine Luzaisu, a lawyer and president of the Association for Woman Lawyers in Congo (AFEJUCO), says such violations can be considered as indecent assault, violation of human dignity or invasion of privacy, which are punishable by the Congolese penal code, bringing sentences of up to five years.
The necessity of being vigilant
With the spread of technology, couples increasingly photograph or videotape themselves in intimate situations. But when these relationships take a turn for the worse, these private moments all too often find their way onto social networks. “It’s a way for them to take revenge. These women must learn to be responsible,” one young man in Matadi says.
But Didienne Bunga, head of division of the Congolese Ministry of Gender, Child and Family, says such unauthorized sharing of images can cause irreparable damage.
“It’s cowardly. It’s a form of violence against women,” she says. “These women mustn’t remain silent. They must press charges.”
But the best way for women to avoid such situations is never to allow such images in the first place. “They should avoid having their picture taken in intimate situations,” Annie Mbadu warns. “You never know when the relationship may turn sour.”