Almost three quarters of women online have been exposed to some form of cyber violence, according to a UN report.
The United Nations Broadband Commission has called on 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 entitled ‘Combatting Online Violence Against Women & Girls: A Worldwide Wake-Up Call’ 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.
It states that without concerted global action, the trend could escalate and significantly impede the uptake of broadband by women everywhere.
With internet access becoming increasingly mobile, cyber violence is more difficult to avoid than ever before and can impact upon targets even when they are away from the traditional desktop usage scenario.
The UN believes that the rapid spread of the internet has made it difficult to implement effective legal and social controls of online anti-social and criminal behaviours which continue to be an immense challenge.
“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 secretary-general Houlin Zhao, who serves as co-vice chair of the Broadband Commission.
“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 experienced some form of online violence
- Women in the age range of 18 to 24 are more 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 victimization for fear of social repercussions.
The executive director of UN Women, Phumzile 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.”
The report lays out three recommendations to tackle the issue:
- Preventing cyber abuse through training, learning, campaigning and community development to promote changes in in social attitudes and behavior
- Implementing safeguards through technical solutions in the internet’s infrastructure
- Develop and uphold laws, regulations and governance mechanisms to deter perpetrators from committing these acts.