73pc of women have been exposed to online violence, says UN report

25 Sep 2015

A new report from the United Nations’ Broadband Commission has revealed shocking figures that show 73pc of women have been exposed to or have experienced online violence.

The report, entitled Combating Online Violence Against Women & Girls: A Worldwide Wake-Up Call, appears to show that despite the increasing numbers of women going online across the world, attitudes towards them online have changed little over the years.

The Working Group on Broadband and Gender who compiled the report was comprised of members from non-profit organisations and governments, and also from major tech companies including Microsoft, Cisco and Intel.

Aside from the fact that nearly three-quarters of women online are having to navigate threats against them or at least experiencing them in some capacity, the report also found that women between the ages of 18 to 24 are likely to experience stalking and sexual harassment in addition to physical threats online.

Sensitisation, safeguarding and sanctions

In the European Union alone, 9m women have admitted that they were forced to experience online violence, with some respondents as young as 15 years old.

As for what can be done about such abuse, the UN report is quite critical of many nations’ responses to such crimes with only 20pc of the women and girls surveyed lived in countries where the perpetrator was likely to face punishment.

“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 Houlin Zhao, 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.”

Among their recommendations the working group said there should be the three Ss in place – sensitisation, safeguarding and sanctions – through promoting awareness of the issue as well as putting the infrastructure in place to help women defend themselves from experiencing online violence.

Women Invent is Silicon Republic’s campaign to champion the role of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. It has been running since March 2013, and is kindly supported by Intel, Eircom, Fidelity Investments, ESB, Accenture and CoderDojo.

Distressed woman online image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic