How technology and social media are weaponised against women even offline

Women and girls are disproportionately experiencing violence fuelled by the increasing use of technology, a new report warns, with online abuse often spilling over into physical attacks and intimidation. The situation is especially worrying in the global south, where laws to protect women are often lacking.

For women worldwide, the internet era is a "blessing and a curse".

That's according to Dutch sexual health organisation Rutgers, which says that technology and online platforms are increasingly used as weapons to "tyrannise" women and other vulnerable groups "as part of an invasive 24/7 culture infiltrating workplaces, schools and homes".

Its research – based on interviews with people in Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda – found widespread links between online violence and the offline world.

Online abuse acts as a springboard for offline violence including sexual harassment, stalking and intimate partner violence, the report says.

In one case described in South Africa, a girl was bullied on and off social media before being beaten. Classmates filmed her and shared the video online, where it was widely viewed, and shortly afterwards the victim killed herself.

Meanwhile in Morocco, a civil society worker recounted that former partners sometimes use intimate pictures or videos for revenge, to get women to give up custody or alimony or to pressure them to hand over assets.

Activists under threat

Uganda is one of the few African countries that actually has a law against such violence.


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