Combatting Online Violence Against Women & Girls: A new report from the United Nations Broadband Commission for Digital Development aims to mobilize the public and private sectors around concrete strategies aimed at stemming a rising tide of online violence against women and girls. Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) is already a problem of pandemic proportion; research shows that one in three women will experience some form of violence in her lifetime.
Now, the new problem of ‘cyber VAWG’ could significantly increase this staggering number, as our research suggests that 73% of women have already been exposed to or have experienced some form of online violence. With social networks still in their relative infancy, this is a problem that urgently needs to be addressed if the Net is to remain an open and empowering space for all.
The sheer volume of cyber VAWG has severe social and economic implications for women’s status on the Internet. Threats of rape, death, and stalking put a premium on women’s emotional bandwidth, take-up time and financial resources including legal fees, online protection services, and missed wages. Cyber VAWG can have a profoundly chilling effect on free speech and advocacy.
Combatting Online Violence: Women aged 18 to 24 are at a heightened risk of being exposed to every kind of cyber VAWG; they are uniquely likely to experience stalking and sexual harassment, while also not escaping the high rates of other types of harassment common to young people in general, like physical threats. In the EU-28, 18 per cent of women have experienced a form of serious Internet violence at ages as young as 15. This corresponds to about 9 million women.