The poster from Aurat March that drew the most ire from the online outrage crowd was a tongue-in-cheek slogan condemning male exploitation of the cyber-space to sexually harass women. Perhaps it was the cheeky phrasing of the poster that upset people like Orya Maqbool Jan but it is an undeniable fact that the cyber-space has been disproportionately used to lead to sexual harassment, exploitation, bullying and blackmailing of women. Pakistan is no stranger to such kinds of gendered cyber-crimes as many take advantage of the patriarchal “honour culture” to shame and blackmail women and violate their privacy on the internet.

Luckily, thanks to feminist activists who are working to make the cyber world a safer space for women, and to the FIA which is recently taking action against those who attempt to violate women’s dignity, we are seeing, for the first time, men being held accountable for the harassment they carried out behind computer screens. The case of former DIG Junaid Arshad, who was arrested yesterday under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016, is a key example. The suspended DIG was involved in uploading explicit pictures of his ex-wife on social media, and was also implicated in criminal conspiracy, blackmail and defamation against her.

After remaining at large for months, the accused has now only been charged; a conviction is pending. Yet this case already has become a landmark precedent in the social impact it could have. For too long, sick men have been spreading and blackmailing women over degrading pictures of them with impunity- this act of sexual harassment was not considered a crime. While PECA might have some overreach elements, its provisions of taking action against cyber harassment and bullying is a breath of fresh air in a country where women are in danger of getting killed over leaked photos and videos.