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Women commonly face online violence in Asian countries but for many victims, fear and distrust make reporting these attacks to authorities "often the last resort," a new UN Women study has found.
The report -- "Online Violence against Women in Asia" -- focused on situations in India, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Republic of Korea. It was funded by the Government of the Republic of Korea. It was released at the Online Violence against Women in Asia Cyber Café event, organised as part of the United Nations Secretary-General's annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence (November 25 to December 10).
The report was done before the COVID-19 pandemic but is even more relevant now when lockdowns have pushed so much of communication, business and services online, possibly increasing the risk of online attacks against women.
The report says the violence includes digital voyeurism, morphing of women's bodies into composite images, harassment of women over clothing and behaviour deemed "inappropriate," dissemination of rape video footage, and live-streaming of child sexual abuse.
It says people with limited digital skills -- mostly women and girls -- are more at risk. Also at risk of sexual exploitation, it says, are children who are now spending more time online.
"Fear of reprisals from perpetrators, lack of confidence in police, the high cost of civil legal action and a lack of confidence in the judicial process are significant barriers to complaining to authorities," the report says.
The report says that according to activists, online violence against women "is a low priority for the police and prosecutors, and there is an unhealthy level of victim blaming."
"Online presence, an essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, is crucial for obtaining and maintaining a job, accessing information, exercising democratic rights, having a voice, getting an education and conducting commercial transactions," said Sarah Knibbs, UN Women Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.
"For the survivor, reporting the attack requires courage and confidence that the system will protect and support to see her through the process. It is imperative that online violence receive the same legal treatment as other forms of violence. If offline sexual harassment and stalking are crimes, online harassment and cyberstalking should similarly be criminalised."
-=-=-=-=-=- Jayne Cravens Author, The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook
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