It’s a Saturday night in the UK.
I’m browsing my Facebook and Twitter timelines.
There’s mentions of ‘Wine o’Clock’, fireworks and bonfires, people discussing faith and politics, promoting charity events, watching television and films.
All very innocent.
Or is it?
Whilst browsing, my husband called me over to his computer, to look at a website he’d found built by Amnesty International. It’s called Trial By Timeline, and the idea is it scans your Facebook Timeline (with your permission of course), and then illustrates for you how many crimes you have committed in what countries and what the punishment for those crimes are.
We were disturbed by his results – he was guilty of four crimes in 11 countries – for which he was ‘beaten’, ‘tortured’ and ‘imprisoned’. One of these crimes was being a ‘migrant’ – moving house from one part of the country to another. A second crime was enjoying a bottle of beer after climbing Mount Snowdon – drinking alcohol is a crime.
Horrified, and I’ll admit slightly amused by the pettiness of some of these ‘crimes’, I decided to have a go.
As the page scans your timeline, it flashes up the names of groups or pages that you’ve liked, or states ‘investigating sexual activity’. More uncomfortably, it flashes up statements like ‘Interrogating John Smith’.
All of a sudden, I had a glimpse of what it must be like to live in fear of doing or saying something that could get your friends and family hauled in for questioning.
Then my results were ready – and all of a sudden I felt sick to the stomach. I was no longer a mixture of amused and horrified. I was simply horrified.
I had committed four crimes in 52 countries.
My first crime – liking a page called ‘Gin O’Clock’ – as with my husband’s experience, drinking alcohol would be punishable by imprisonment in three countries.
Secondly, in five countries, I was guilty of blasphemy, as I have no religion stated on my profile. This is punishable by torture.
Thirdly, simply having a Facebook profile, and peacefully exercising my righ to freedom of expression is punishable by torture in Myanmar
Lastly (this was actually the first crime, but it’s the one that has sickened me to the stomach) – my gender is listed as ‘Female’.
In 40 countries, this is treated as a criminal offence by the state.
WHAT? Say that again?
In 40 countries, I would be treated as a criminal, purely because, by chance, I was born female.
I live in the UK. Women won the right to vote in 1917 (see the comments below for more information on this as, 1917 was only the start of the fight for votes for women in the UK) We go out to work, get paid, go to school, own property, dress and believe as we like. The gender divide still has a long way to go here, pay is not equal yet; toys are branded for ‘girls’ and ‘boys’; but I’m not routinely beaten just for being me.
We have movements like The Everyday Sexism Project, government organisations like the ‘Equal Opportunities Commission’ that stand up and evaluate and fight for my right to be treated the same as any man, and if no-one else does I can stand up for myself, argue my case, and there will be no punishment for this.
If I had been born in one of the 40 countries listed, for example Afghanistan or Portugal (yes, Portugal!), I would have to battle every single day and risk injury and persecution for both myself and my family.
This is happening now.
So what can we do?
The Trial by Timeline site has a link labelled ‘Take Action’ – there are three options:
I’ve chosen option number 1 – the more we talk and raise awareness, the easier it becomes to argue the case and spread the word quietly and peacefully.
Take the Trial – find out how you’ve become a criminal just for being you. Share the results. Change the world.