Women often assaulted online in Asia but find limited recourse: UN Women study
Women, girls at greater risk with limited digital skills, spending more time online
Publish- December 08, 2020, 10:01 AM
UNB NEWS - UNB NEWS
Civil society activists say victims prefer to confide in friends, work colleagues and civil society organisations and “rarely or never” report attacks to the authorities. Representational image
Civil society activists say that women commonly face online violence in Asian countries but for many victims, fear and distrust make reporting these attacks to authorities “often the last resort,” a new UN Women study has found.
Countries should respond by strengthening prosecutions and sanctions against perpetrators and increasing efforts to correct the gender inequality and misogynistic norms in society that drive the violence, the report says.
The report, Online Violence against Women in Asia, focused on the situations in India, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Republic of Korea. It was funded by the Government of the Republic of Korea.
It was to be released on Tuesday at the Online Violence against Women in Asia Cyber Café event, organised as part of the United Nations Secretary-General’s annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence (November 25 to December 10).
The report was done before the COVID-19 pandemic but is even more relevant now that lockdowns have pushed so much of communication, business and services online, possibly increasing the risk of online attacks against women.
The report says the violence includes digital voyeurism, morphing of women’s bodies into composite images, harassment of women over dress and behaviour deemed “inappropriate,” dissemination of rape video footage, and live-streaming of child sexual abuse.
It says people with limited digital skills — mostly women and girls — are more at risk. Also at risk of sexual exploitation, it says, are schoolchildren who are now spending more time online.
Civil society activists interviewed by the researchers said victims preferred to confide in friends, work colleagues and civil society organisations and “rarely or never” report attacks to the authorities.
“Fear of reprisals from perpetrators, lack of confidence in police, the high cost of civil legal action and a lack of confidence in the judicial process are significant barriers to complaining to authorities,” the report says.
The report says that according to activists, online violence against women “is a low priority for the police and prosecutors, and there is an unhealthy level of victim blaming.”
“It is critical to restore confidence in the legal process so that women and girls may access justice,” it says.
The report says specific legal provisions are needed to respond to online violence against women, including specialised courts and specially trained investigators and prosecutors.
It says civil society groups favour expanding legal sanctions to include ordering perpetrators to have the online content removed and delinked from searches, as well as fines and restitution, where possible.
Governments also need to do more to educate people about proper Internet etiquette, toxic online behaviour, and the prohibition of online violence against women, the report says.
“Online presence, an essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, is crucial for obtaining and maintaining a job, accessing information, exercising democratic rights, having a voice, getting an education and conducting commercial transactions,” said Sarah Knibbs, UN Women Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.
“However, with online violence against women and girls, the transformative potential of the Internet and digital technology as well as freedom of expression is under threat.”
“For the survivor, reporting the attack requires courage and confidence that the system will protect and support to see her through the process. It is imperative that online violence receive the same legal treatment as other forms of violence. If offline sexual harassment and stalking are crimes, online harassment and cyberstalking should similarly be criminalised.”