person carrying a sign 'silence is violence'

Youth Power to fight Online gender-based violence

Young people must unite to ensure that we do not simply become bystanders when online safety violations take place say Yashaswe Amatya and Bharati Sahani

Internet use drastically surged globally after the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world, and countries started going into lockdown. With the surge in internet use, users across the world were using social media invariably to stay connected with friends, news, entertainment, and information. 

Online Gender-Based Violence and Covid-19.

Globally, the lockdown led to an increase in gender-based violence in communities vulnerable to abuse. While harrowing cases of domestic gender-based violence continued behind closed doors, its more public and equally alarming extension and continuum, online Gender-Based Violence cases also started rising globally.

As per a UN Women study online abuse directed against women and girls, the LGBTQ community, nonbinary people, and other groups has significantly increased over the course of the pandemic. Forms of Online Gender-Based Violence like hacking, harassment/spamming, doxing, hate speech, malicious distribution of intimate photos and messages are rampant and especially skyrocketed amid the Covid-19 crisis. 

What causes Online gender-based violence?

This digitally enhanced form of violence is the result of a lack of effective regulation and actions from tech companies and the government. The existing laws also do not address online gender-based violence. While social media platforms were not invented to encourage these behaviours, they weren’t made to combat them either. 

The prolific growth of social media usage has created new spaces for perpetrators to gather and organize harassment campaigns. Perpetrators are now using digital tools, such as social media and GPS tracking, to cause harm alongside in-person violence. Digital tools have also opened the door to new forms of abuse, such as the non-consensual creation of sexual images and fake videos.

Online gender-based violence has been largely ignored because of the mistaken belief that it is not harmful. The trolls commodifying women are normalized as memes and people giving their sexist or racist views are neglected as people expressing their opinions. 

Intersectionality people, survivors or victims of physical violence, female gamers, transgender people, and feminine advocates are among those most vulnerable to online GBV.

Everlasting effects.

One of the key findings of the Association for Progressive Communication’s research on online gender-based violence revealed that it violates victims’ right to self-determination and bodily integrity, and denies them the ability to create their own online identities, limits their ability to move freely, and form and engage in socially and politically meaningful interactions. 

Further, according to a 2020 study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, one in three women, think twice before posting anything online. 

Additionally, stress disorder, feelings of elevated levels of anxiety, trauma, panic attacks, a sense of helplessness to respond to the abuse, and loss of self-esteem are among the repercussions of online gender-based violence that are challenging to overcome.

Role of Youth Power.

When discussing the mitigation of online gender-based violence, we mostly focus on roles that the government, tech companies, and other concerned authorities must play. It is important to note that young people also have a significant role in mitigating online gender-based violence. 

Young people have access to technology and the ability to mobilize them at their fingertips. This, combined with their power in numbers, puts them at the forefront of social change. 

We should collaborate to create and gather digital literacy and online safety tools. These contents should be easily accessible in both online and offline versions, and resources should be customized to local languages.

Furthermore, it is essential to be critical and question how the media portrays girls and women, whether on television, online, in magazines, or in music videos. While social media has its drawbacks, it is a great platform to share articles, views, and information for addressing online GBV. 

Young people must unite to ensure that we do not simply become bystanders when online safety violations occur, but we also take proactive steps to become active bystanders (report, reply, and encourage the victim).

Feature Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

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Youth Power to fight Online gender-based violence

by Yashaswe Amatya Reading time: 3 min
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