A UN expert on Wednesday said countries around the world must act urgently to introduce new legislation to stamp out online and information and communications technology (ICT) facilitated violence against women and girls, which is yet another way in which their human rights are being violated.
“New forms of internet-facilitated violence against women have been emerging, but most States still fail to recognise the problem in digital spaces as a ‘real’ form of violence,” said Dubravka Simonovic, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, in a report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The expert also called for cooperation between states, intermediaries, non-governmental organisations and national human rights institutions to ensure their actions against online violence complies with the international human rights framework.
She said there is now an urgent need for specialised national legislative and policy measures based on existing human rights instruments, according to a statement received from Geneva.
The expert pointed out that technology companies now have tools to empower women and girls to achieve a fuller realisation of all their human rights and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, including gender equality and the elimination of all forms of gender-based discrimination and violence.
“I believe there is a significant risk that the use of information and communications technology (ICT) without proper human rights-based protection could even widen sex and gender-based discrimination, and increase violence against women and girls,” she warned.
Simonovic said women victims and survivors need transparent and fast responses and effective remedies, which can be achieved only if both States and private authorities work together and exercise due diligence to eliminate online violence against women.
“Particular attention should be paid to those categories of women who are notably a target of online violence, such as human rights defenders, those in politics, journalists, LGBT women, women and girls with disabilities, indigenous people and those from vulnerable groups,” she said.
The expert said States have a responsibility and an obligation under due diligence to enact new laws and measures to prevent, protect, prosecute, punish and redress new emerging forms of online violence against women and girls.
“As a matter of urgency, the international framework on the prohibition of violence against women should be applied to all forms of online violence against women and girls,” said the expert.