UN report warns cyber violence against women is emerging as a global problem with serious implications for societies and economies around the world
Presenting excerpts from the report by the UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development Working Group on Broadband and Gender:
Millions of women and girls around the world are subjected to deliberate violence because of their gender. Violence against women and girls (VAWG) knows no boundaries, cutting across borders, race, culture and income groups, profoundly harming victims, people around them, and society as a whole.
Cyber-VAWG is emerging as a global problem with serious implications for societies and economies around the world. As the reach of internet grows across the globe, the rapid spread of mobile information and communications technologies are being used as tools to inflict harm on women and girls.
Writing this report has, in some sense, been a race to keep up with breaking news, as girl after girl and woman after woman, has come forward to expose physical and verbal attacks on them: teenage girls driven to suicide by online trolling; an airline passenger using her cell phone to record and report physical and sexual harassment from a male co-passenger; an actress publicly responding to targeted online hate speech against her; a former Major League Baseball pitcher using doxing3 to identify people responsible for “Twitter troll” posts with obscene, sexually explicit comments about his teenage daughter.
High profile incidences attract public attention and tort law responses: a Twitter troll was jailed in September 2014 and a porn site operator sentenced to 18 years in in prison in February 2015. One person was suspended from his community college, and another lost a part-time job with the New York Yankees when the doxing case involving a former Major League Baseball pitcher was made public.
Responses, however, have yet to fully address the many degrees and impact of violence, trauma and loss that women, girls and children are routinely exposed to and that go unreported. It is a problem of pandemic proportion when research asserts that one in three women will have experienced a form of violence in her lifetime. Cyber VAWG could significantly increase this staggering number, as reports suggest that 73% of women have already been exposed to or have experienced some form of online violence in what must still be considered a relatively new and growing technology.
The sheer volume of cyber VAWG has severe social and economic implications for women and girls. Threats of rape, death, and stalking put a premium on the emotional bandwidth and put a stress on financial resources (in terms of legal fees, online protection services, and missed wages, among others). The direct and indirect costs to societies and economies are also significant, as needs for health care, judicial and social services rise and productivity goes down with the sense of peace and security required for business to thrive.
In 1995 less than 1 per cent of the world population was connected to the Internet. That number has grown to 40 per cent, with over three billion unique Internet users. While women are about 25 per cent less likely to have access today, Intel’s 2013 report, Women and the Web, estimates 450 million new female Internet users could come online within the next three years. Another report on women’s access to and use of mobile technology shows a growing gender “use” gap which is partly attributable to women’s concerns over privacy and security.
Given the ubiquity of the Internet and its wide-ranging impact, particularly on the younger generation, it becomes imperative to ensure it as a safe place for both current and future generations.
The respect for and security of girls and women must at all times be front and center of those in charge of producing and providing the content, technical backbone and enabling environment of our digital society. Failure to do so will clip the potential of the Internet as an engine for gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Here is the full report