With over 60% of people worldwide having access to the internet, digitisation has yielded positive changes for many. From being able to quickly access information and connect with people from different parts of the world to having a platform where people can freely express themselves. However, increased access to the internet has also led to a growing number of violence cases committed mainly against women.


What is cyber gender-based violence

Cyber gender-based violence is a form of violence committed online or in person against people because of their gender identity. Perpetrators can use technology in various forms to instigate cyber-based gender violence – from using social media and online spaces to using technology in real life to harass individuals. Cyber-based gender violence is part of a larger group of gender injustices and violence that people can experience. While both men and women can experience cyber violence, evidence strongly shows that it is mainly young girls and women who are exposed to cyber violence purely because of their sex and gender.


Forms of cyber-based gender violence

There are many ways that cyber-based gender violence can manifest itself. Some of the most known forms include cyber flashing, doxxing, gendertrolling, non-consensual intimate image and slut-shaming.

  • Cyber Flashing refers to sending unsolicited images of sexual content through messaging apps and dating apps
  • Doxxing refers to obtaining and publicly disclosing private information without the consent of the person to shame and harass them
  • Gendertrolling refers to using derogatory terms that mainly target women and resorting to threats such as rape threats
  • Non-consensual intimate image, also known as revenge porn, refers to the online distribution of images and videos that contain sexual content without the consent of the other person
  • Slut-shaming refers to the act of stigmatising a person, usually a girl or a woman, for failing to comply with perceived behaviours regarding sexuality


What statistics say

In 2020, Plan International conducted large-scale research, interviewing over 14,000 girls from 31 different countries, to discover how much violence girls and women experience when engaging with various digital platforms. The findings of this survey showed how extensive the damages of gender-based violence are with 58% of girls that were surveyed confirming they experienced online harassment. But the harassment that girls experience on the internet doesn’t end in the realms of social media and digital platforms – 24% of girls also reported feeling physically unsafe and 18% of survey participants said that online harassment created problems at school.

Aside from having physical consequences, online harassment also affects the mental and emotional health of girls and young women. Out of all the respondents, 42% reported losing self-confidence and the same percentage reported feeling emotionally and mentally stressed. Moreover, girls who belong to minority groups report being harassed on the internet purely because of their minority background – 37% of the girls that were surveyed report being harassed because they belong to an ethnic minority and 42% say they were harassed because they are part of the LGBTQIA community.


Cost of cyber-based gender violence

According to research conducted by the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS), the total cost of cyber-based gender violence was estimated to be between €49 and €89.3 billion. The largest portion of costs accounted for the loss in terms of life quality which amounted to a staggering 60% of the total cost. Aside from a decrease in the quality of life because of cyber-based gender violence, another substantial cost relates to the implications that cyber harassment has for the labour market. Labour market impact comprised 30% of the total monetary loss that society experiences as a result of cyber-based gender violence. Although healthcare and legal costs amounted only to 10% of the total cost, their significance is nonetheless profound.

Similar research was conducted by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) in 2019. As part of this research, EIGE calculated estimated costs for each EU-27 country and the total cost of gender-based violence. The total cost of gender-based violence was estimated to be €366 billion out of which 79% was the total cost of gender-based violence against women, amounting to €290 billion.


How society can tackle the problem of cyber-based gender violence

While international organisations are increasingly advocating for the recognition of gender violence that is perpetrated using technology, laws regarding cyber-based gender crimes against women are mainly regulated at the level of individual countries. In the same vein, the EU doesn’t have a common policy to tackle this issue. Still, the EU Parliament is aware of the issue of gender violence and is calling attention to it through debates and discussions to change the legislation.

To combat cyber-based gender violence, six organisations from five European countries started a project funded by the Erasmus+ programme called Prevention and Support – Cyber Gender-Based Violence (PS-CGBV). This project aims to raise awareness about cyber-based gender violence and empower young people. The project also aspires to provide youth workers with skills to provide appropriate help to victims. As part of the project, PS-CGBV will release a youth handbook and two products for victim support – a research paper with the project’s results and a training curriculum for youth workers. Learn more about the project here.


 Author: Inga Rajer



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