Every era in time has witnessed some form of rebellion against status quo. Triggered by a surge of technological advancements, the 21st century has had its share of revolutions; disrupting traditional mindset to even opening up springs of socio-economic and political change as well as devastating cataclysms.

ICTs and the digital boom have indeed played a pivotal part in triggering awareness about our individual and collective rights, the critical role of inclusion and diversity and more importantly the gradual realization that no society can really flourish without the equal participation of all genders. But there is a flip side. With all things being said and done, life is still far from what it ought to be – be it gender equality, countering violence against women, education, economic development and what have you – there is so much to achieve on a local as well as global scale.

We are now living in parallel realities with as much at stake in virtual realm as in the real world. Indeed, the promise and potential of technology knows no bounds. In fact it is like an unbridled horse, unleashing power that can be served for global social good and unfortunately for all that is ruinous for humanity.

Yes, technology has laid the groundwork for positive, sustainable development; but it has also ushered in a more dynamic, more treacherous form of suffering – especially for those who to-date are still marginalized – women! With the aid of ICTs, the World Wide Web is witnessing a convergence of real world violence against the female gender into one that is virtual, multi-dimensional and very lethal. It is in fact an overt expression of inequalities transmuted into digital space.

According to a PEW research, women overall are disproportionately targeted by the most severe forms of online abuse including trolling, violent threats, stalking and blackmail etc. Cyber violence is a global issue with seriously debilitating implications; but sad to say these are not truly recognized as one even now. According to UN Women’s Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: “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.”

One of the many reason why Cyber Violence Against Women and Girls (Cyber VAWG) is more dynamic and more destructive is that it helps maintain anonymity of perpetrators. While there are no actual physicalities involved in Cyber VAWG, its repercussions are in fact very real and truly physical. What’s more, because of having a non-physicality aspect attached to online abuse, people are slow to respond and redress.

A UN Women research reveals women and girls aged between 18 to 24 are more likely to experience stalking and sexual harassment in addition to physical threats. One in five female Internet users live in countries where cyber harassment is very likely to go unpunished. Overall 73 percent of women have already been exposed to or have experienced some form of online violence. Online abuse not only takes a toll on woman’s well being and emotional health, marginalizing them even in the virtual world; it gags their voice, freedom of expression and dismantles their digital footprint. In addition to this, it enables perpetrators to get away with the crime as the lack of proper regulation incapacitates prosecution of the offenders.

It is high time we realize that failure to address cyber violence against women will most certainly lead to disempowering women. It is critical for all stakeholders from state, community, family to individuals as well as private and public sectors, tech industry, ISPs and telcos to come on board together and help deescalate this issue.

There is an urgent need for devising inclusive, implementable policies with equal participation from all sides. Setting up local, regional as well as international cyber watchdogs or gatekeepers comprising of ISPs, Telcos and civil society can be a positive start in the right direction. Leveraging technology such as big data can play a huge role in monitoring, assessing and even –at times – preempting online abuse. Last but certainly not the least, it is fundamental to sensitize the public through awareness so that complacency at the grassroots level is weeded out completely and redressal is swift.

This post was submitted in response to 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.

14Encouragement

This is a very important issue today! I'm very glad you wrote about it. Cyber Violence against Women is a tough and difficult experience. The statistics show that something needs to be done! Women should not be subject to violence additionally over the web. We need to find solutions for it fast and now. Thank you for sharing. Best, Dana

Thank you for the words of encouragement. I agree it's an increasingly serious topic and due attention is not being given to it. This is why it's so important that all of us keep on talking about it, raising awareness and most importantly coming together to help find solutions. 

So appreciate your feedback!

Warm regards

Sabin

Sabin I have just written a LONG comment to you which the site seems to have lost! I'm afraid I don't have time to repeat it -- but please let me know of any further info you have on this topic. Allie 

The Future Is Female.

Dear Allie

I wish i could have read that comment. You can find a lot of content on cyber vawg or VAWG in general here on my website: www.anankemag.com

We have recently concluded a series of sessions on Twitter pertaining to Cyber abuse, abuse and elderly women, street harassment, women's health and abuse and  women with disabilities and abuse. 

Do check out www.facebook.com/anankemag if you like - I have launched another video campaign #WomenOnVAW.

Do let me know if there is anything I can assist you with.

Warm regards

Sabin

Thanks Sabin. I'm sorry - when I lost my comment yesterday I was annoyed - not a good emotion but natural - I was doing my WP pieces in my lunch "hour".

Basically I was thanking you for raising the subject. I've dealt (or tried to deal) with cyberstalking in my job (a lawyer) and it is SUCH a thorny problem because it is invisible gender violence in a way. And sometimes it isn't intentional - the way the internet is, we can all say things on here which may be taken as insults by other people.

The big problem of course is never really knowing who you are talking to (Am I Allie? Are you Sabin?)

Until we come up with a way of satisfactorily policing the internet, I always tell my clients not to believe anything anyone says on here (and never to disclose personal information) unless they actually KNOW the person.

Anything can be forged.

For example I don't have photos on my sites. Partly that is because I don't want to be recognised (as a lawyer), partly because I know from experience that photos can mean nothing - especially of attractive women. I've known 40 year old men post photos of 18 year old girls and claim to be them (on other sites anyway - I'm not suggesting that your photo isn't of you!!)

AGAIN, thanks for your answer and links Sabin.

Allie xx

The Future Is Female.

Hi Allie

I agree ... it can be very frustrating when all that you've written and expressed gets lost. 

The cyber world is definitely unchartered territory...which is still being explored. It has its merits as well as demerits and navigating through it  certainly has its challenges. The world is still grappling with the immense power technology/the Web/ICTs possess and exude. That said, no one can really fully understand the extent of suffering the victim/survivor feels in any kind of violence unless we talk about it, so I believe bringing into the forefront topics including Cyber abuse, trolling, domestic abuse that even leads to cognitive dissonance are crucial to fighting these societal diseases. Yes one can be wary of the challenges the virtual world possesses... but we have to fight it head on... by talking about...by collaborating... by raising voice... online and off.... In my humble opinion, we have to bring these perpetrators into the limelight.. and the only way of doing this is by working together... teaming up ... We can be stronger together... when we have each other's back.... all destructive tactics of these trolls and criminals who hide behind screens will come to an end. Maybe I am an idealist... but i really do believe in that. :)

You should also check out tweets on cyber harassment and all related subjects using the hashtag #IGF2016

In Pakistan, there is an organisation called Digital Rights Foundation... they have recently launched a helping...They've got a lot of info on their website as well: http://digitalrightsfoundation.pk

Their founder Nighat Dad has just been awarded the Tulips Human Rights Award by the Dutch Govt ... it will be given to her on Human rights day - Dec 10th

If there is anything else I can do to assist you... please do let me know.

Warm regards

Sabin

 

Thanks Sabin. I'm not against the internet or the cyber world (we wouldn't be "speaking" now without it). My comments are purely related to instances my clients have had of being either cyberstalked (in which case something needs to be done) or feeling intimidated by someone or something (where I have to weigh up whether it was MEANT to harm them, and so often there's no evidence that it was).

In those instances one just has to realise that people can never be sure of communications unless they know the person they are "talking" to, and that there are too many people in this world who make use of material they shouldn't have, to take advantage of others.

Yes we're certainly stronger together and that's where groups like this come in, but it's a  long process putting our heads together and finding ways of curbing cyber misuse.

Obviously it is very important that International Laws are passed and upheld by all governments.

Allie x

The Future Is Female.

Dear Sabin,

You have raised a very important issue, this new level of violence escalating against women through cyber bullying. I appreciate especially your inclusive list of what we are contending with, and your references to information available through work being done through the UN. I will include links here about the suicides of two teenagers here in Canada, Amanda having been repeatedly harassed to send photos of herself to a man in Europe who, it turned out was threatening about 100 young girls, and Rehteah who was gang raped, the rape filmed and put online by the boys. The law created to stop the cyber bullying was struck down a year ago as too tough on human rights. This year many women Members of parliament and journalists report a lot of cyber attacks.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_of_Amanda_Todd

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_of_Rehtaeh_Parsons

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/cyberbullying-law-struck-down-...

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/female-journalists-response...

I hope these links can help with the collective attention that you have eloquently called for on cyber attack. We need effective anti bullying work to be done in schools here as well, and in North America generally, women making it into computer games have had their lives threatened for creating non violent women heroes. We have a lot to do in this area, and I am glad for your urge here that we work together on it.

In sisterhood,

Tam

Dear Tam

Many thanks for the words of appreciation. And thank you for the links as well.. I really think ... this is one of the so many topics that we need to constantly focus on. I have personally seen how lewd viral videos of young girls have led to devastating repercussions. Also, how online bullying affects the young as well as the not so young generation alike; anything can happen with even an accidental or a deliberate click of a button.

Regulations many a times fall short and there is a complacency to address the issue not only because of policies that are still not inclusive but because they are unable to grasp this intangible issues that springs to life stealthily. 

Another big aspect that you have mentioned is the gaming industry and I have read so many articles of violence against women as far as this industry is concerned. With the push to getting more women in tech.... this issue needs definitive resolutions and all of us have to be a part of it. And yes... we are stronger.... if we're working together... and not in silos. That IS the way forward!

Warm regards

Sabin

Dear Sabin, Yes this is true,cyber violence against women is a tough and difficult experience now a days. I believe together we can make changes and impact our communities.Thanks for writing about this issue and providing valuable information.

Sophie Ngassa

Founder & Director at CYEED

http://www.cyeed.net/

Dear Sophie 

Many thanks for the words of encouragement. Definitely on board with you... we just cant work in silos, sustainable development is only possible through collaboration. 

I am also interested in your platform.... would love to know more and possibly collaborate in some manner :)

Warm regards

Sabin