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Report on cyber violence against women and girls


broadband commission, report, cyber violence against women and girlsOnly 26 per cent of law enforcement agencies in the 86 countries surveyed taking appropriate action.

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

Its authors urge governments and industry to work harder and more effectively together to better protect the growing number of women and girls who are victims of online threats and harassment.

The report notes that despite the rapidly growing number of women experiencing online violence, only 26 per cent of law enforcement agencies in the 86 countries surveyed are taking appropriate action.

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

It is co-chaired by the UNDP‘s administrator, Helen Clark, and the UN’s Under-Secretary-General and UN Women’s executive director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Working Group members, which also include representatives from the tech sector and civil society, hope the report will mobilise the public and private sectors to establish concrete strategies aimed at stemming the rising tide of online violence against women.

Without concerted global action to curb the various escalating forms of online violence, an unprecedented surge of ‘cyber violence against women and girls (cyber VAWG)’ could run rampant and significantly impede the uptake of broadband by women everywhere, the report contends.

It notes that cyber VAWG already exists in many forms, including online harassment, public shaming, the desire to inflict physical harm, sexual assaults, murders and induced suicides.

The rapid spread of the internet means that effective legal and social controls of online anti-social and criminal behaviours continue to be an immense challenge.

And in the age of the social internet and ‘anywhere, anytime’ mobile access, cyber violence can strike at any time, and can relentlessly follow its targets everywhere they go.

“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,” said the ITU‘s secretary-general Houlin Zhao, who serves as co-vice chair of the Broadband Commission alongside UNESCO‘s director-general Irina Bokova.

“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.”

Key findings of the report include:

An estimated 73 per cent of women have already been exposed to, or have experienced, some form of online violence.

Women in the age range of 18 to 24 are uniquely likely to experience stalking and sexual harassment in addition to physical threats.

Nine million women in the European Union’s 28 countries alone have experienced online violence as young as 15 years old.

One in five female Internet users live in countries where harassment and abuse of women online is extremely unlikely to be punished.

In many countries women are reluctant to report their victimisation for fear of social repercussions.

Cyber VAWG puts a premium on emotional bandwidth, personal and workplace time, financial resources and missed wages.

“Violence against women and girls is never acceptable anywhere, no matter whether it is committed on the streets, in the home, or on the information highway,” Helen Clark said.

“To achieve sustainable development for all, we must build a world where women and girls can live their lives free of violence and fulfil their potential as valued and equal members of society.”

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” she continued.

“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.”

The report presents a set of Key Recommendations, proposing a global framework based around three Ss – Sensitisation, Safeguards and Sanctions.

Sensitisation – Preventing cyber VAWG through training, learning, campaigning and community development to promote changes in in social attitudes and behaviour;

Safeguards Implementing oversight and maintaining a responsible Internet infrastructure through technical solutions and more informed customer care practices; and

Sanctions – Develop and uphold laws, regulations and governance mechanisms to deter perpetrators from committing these acts.

The report argues that rigorous oversight and enforcement of rules banning cyber VAWG on the internet will be an essential foundation stone if the internet is to become a safe, respectful and empowering space for women and girls, and, by extension, for boys and men.

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