UN Says Serious Online Violence Against Women Could Harm Spread Of Internet


The UN is calling on governments and industry around the world to help better protect women from violence and abuse online.

A report from the United Nations Broadband Commission has revealed that almost three quarters of women have been exposed to some form of cyber violence online.

And in addition to this, only 26% of law enforcement agencies in the 86 countries surveyed are taking appropriate action.

The report, called Cyber Violence Against Women & Girls: A Worldwide Wake-Up Call, was released at an event at United Nations Headquarters in New York by the Commission’s Working Group on Gender.

This abuse includes online harassment, public shaming, the desire to inflict physical harm, sexual assaults, murders and induced suicides.

The report found that an estimated 73% of women have already been exposed to, or have experienced, some form of online violence.

And younger women, between the age of 18 and 24, are uniquely likely to experience stalking and sexual harassment in addition to physical threats.

UN Women’s Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said: “Online violence has subverted the original positive promise of the Internet’s freedoms and in too many circumstances has made it a chilling space that permits anonymous cruelty and facilitates harmful acts towards women and girls.

“We want to reclaim and expand the opportunities it offers. That means recognizing the scale and depth of the damage being done — and taking strong, concerted steps to call it — and stop it.  Abuse online is still abuse, with potency and very real consequences.”

Stoking the problem is the fact that one in five female internet users live in countries where harassment and abuse of women online is extremely unlikely to be punished.

The report estimates that 9m women in the EU’s 28 countries alone have experienced online violence, some as young as 15 years old.

And the committee said that without taking steps to curb this online violence, this abuse could severely impede the uptake of broadband by women everywhere.

ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao, who serves as co-Vice Chair of the Broadband Commission, said: “In this report we’re arguing that complacency and failure to address and solve cyber violence could significantly impede the uptake of broadband services by girls and women worldwide.

“The Net is an amazing resource for personal empowerment, and we need to ensure that as many girls and women as possible benefit from the amazing possibilities it offers.”

To help the problem, the report has proposed a framework based around the three “S”s: Sensitization, Safeguards and Sanctions.

These are:

  • Sensitization — Preventing cyber VAWG through training, learning, campaigning and community development to promote changes in in social attitudes and behavior.
  • Safeguards — Implementing oversight and maintaining a responsible Internet infrastructure through technical solutions and more informed customer care practices.
  • Sanctions — Develop and uphold laws, regulations and governance mechanisms to deter perpetrators from committing these acts.

Check out the report here.