Online Gender-Based Violence: Breaking Down the Digital Threats

--

The internet has transformed the way we communicate, connect, and conduct our daily lives. While this digital revolution has brought about countless benefits, it has also given rise to a troubling phenomenon: Online Gender-Based Violence (OGBV). OGBV encompasses a range of harmful actions targeting women, driven or aggravated by the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). This pervasive issue poses a significant challenge to gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Understanding Online Gender-Based Violence

Online Gender-Based Violence is defined as any act of gender-based violence committed, assisted, or exacerbated through the use of ICTs. It specifically targets women because of their gender or disproportionately affects them. This form of violence includes a broad spectrum of behaviors, such as cyber-stalking, hacking, non-consensual sharing of intimate images, cyber-bullying, defamation, online sexual harassment, surveillance, tracking, hate speech, exploitation, and impersonation, among others.

Motivations, Intent, and Behaviors

The motivations behind Online Gender-Based Violence vary, ranging from political or ideological reasons to revenge. These motivations drive the intent of perpetrators, whether it’s psychological or physical harm, enforcing harmful gender norms, or extortion. Perpetrators employ various technology-facilitated tactics, including hacking and issuing threats, to carry out these behaviors.

The Impact of Online Gender-Based Violence

Technology-facilitated Gender-Based Violence leaves victims traumatized and can severely affect their mental health. It serves to silence women and perpetuate patriarchal structures. The shame, stigma, and victim-blaming associated with OGBV compound the harm experienced by survivors.

Non-Consensual Sharing of Intimate Images

One of the most prevalent forms of Online Gender-Based Violence is the non-consensual sharing of intimate images, commonly referred to as “revenge porn.” This term is a misnomer, as it inaccurately frames intimate images as pornography. These images are shared without the woman’s consent, whether they were taken with or without her knowledge. Perpetrators may include individuals who captured the images and hackers who gain unauthorized access to them.

Sexualized Threats and Violence

Online Sexual Harassment encompasses any unwanted sexual message, whether private or public, transmitted through text, photos, or videos. Victims of such harassment often feel threatened, exploited, or humiliated, which can take a toll on their mental well-being. This form of violence is used to intimidate and uphold patriarchal structures.

Cyber Dating Violence

Cyber Dating Violence, also known as digital dating abuse, involves behaviors intended to control, monitor, coerce, harass, or stalk a dating partner using digital technology and online surveillance. These actions can stem from negative emotions such as attachment anxiety, jealousy, and anger. Cyber Dating Violence may include sending threats, stalking partners online, demanding passwords, and monitoring online interactions.

Online Dating: A Double-Edged Sword

The rise of online dating has revolutionized the way people meet potential partners. Dating apps and websites offer convenient platforms to connect with others, yet they also present risks. Users can create idealized profiles that may not reflect their true selves, leading to deception and disappointment. Additionally, online dating can expose individuals to dangers such as cyberbullying, harassment, discrimination, and even sex trafficking.

In conclusion, Online Gender-Based Violence is a pressing issue in our digital world. It perpetuates gender inequality, silences women, and inflicts emotional and psychological harm. Recognizing the various forms of OGBV and understanding their impact is the first step toward combatting this pervasive problem. As we continue to navigate the digital landscape, it is essential to prioritize the safety and well-being of all individuals, both online and offline.

--

--

SafeOnline Women Kenya (SOW-Kenya)

Empowering women and girls in Kenya to navigate the digital world safely and confidently.