OGBV: What is it and How Do We Deal With it?

UN Women has put together a Youth Toolkit to raise awareness about Online Gender-Based Violence (OGBV). In this post, we will outline the most crucial highlights of the Toolkit, delving into every angle of OGBV and how it can be detrimental to mental well-being and, more widely, the progression of gender equality.

What is OGBV?

According to the UN definition, Online Gender-Based Violence “is any form of violence that is enabled by or perpetrated by using technology or a digital interface – specifically the internet or smart devices. It can target one’s gender, sex, or sexual orientation.”

Essentially, OGBV is just like Gender-Based Violence, but it has been displaced to cyberspace where it has taken on a new, often more public, guise.

Forms of OGBV

OGBV can manifest in a number of ways; namely identity theft, online threats, cyberstalking, surveillance, cyber-flashing, digital voyeurism, and gender-based hate speech, to name a few.

Some other forms of OGBV – and some terms to get familiarized with – include the following:

Doxing – The sharing of someone’s personal data online. Doxing can also involve inciting others to contact the victim to cause further harm.

Morphing – The act of modifying, superimposing, and generally rearranging photos and videos
to create “deep fakes.” These may be uploaded onto pornographic sites so as to sexualize and degrade the victim.

Zoom bombing – The pandemic has given rise to a modern phenomenon known as “Zoom bombing,” which involves people joining online gatherings in order to post racist, sexist, pornographic, or anti-Semitic content to shock and disturb participants.

Sextortion – The extortion of sex or sexual acts by threatening the victim with the leaking of intimate photos or footage.

The Frightening Figures

  • Women are 27 times more likely to experience OGBV than men.
  • In 2021, up to 88% of women in Asia and the Pacific experienced online violence, with adolescent girls and those from vulnerable backgrounds being affected disproportionately.
  • 78% of women are unaware of the options to report OGBV.
  • 92% of women who have undergone OGBV have reported being harmed by it.
  • COVID-19 has triggered an increase in OGBV. During the COVID-19 lockdown, there was a 50-70% increase in internet usage globally, and in turn, a spike in OGBV occurrences.

Who are the Perpetrators?

Perpetrators can be anyone, from current or former partners to family members, colleagues, friends, or strangers.

What are the Consequences of OGBV?

  • Social Isolation – An OGBV survivor – especially those who have had intimate photos exposed online or have been embarrassed publicly in some other way – may withdraw from public life. It could leave them feeling alienated from family and friends.
  • Emotional Repercussions – Not surprisingly, falling victim to OGBV offenses can have severe emotional repercussions for a survivor. This could include trauma, anxiety, fear for their safety, depression, and in the worst-case scenario, it can cause suicide.
  • Economic Repercussions – The impact of OGBV can result in the loss of jobs, professional standing, social capital, and more. A survivor may feel pressured to resign from their job, causing a financial loss for the survivor.
  • Femicide – In extreme cases, femicide can be a consequence of OGBV. Femicide is the killing of women because of their sex and/or gender. So-called ‘honor’-based killings, the murder of women and girls by family members or partners, can occur if the victim of OGBV is perceived to have brought shame and dishonor upon the family. For instance, if explicit images have been shared of the victim, their family might commit an ‘honor’-based killing.

Where Can You Report OGBV?

Though it may not feel like it, there are various channels through which you can report OGBV. Most of the mainstream social media sites (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) have options to report any violence you have been subject to on their platform.

You can also report incidents of OGBV to the police, who will likely require thorough documentary evidence to substantiate your claim.

For instances of OGBV at work, approaching your line manager, human resources, or a trusted colleague should be your first port of call. If your company is lagging behind and lacks an internal policy or a procedure for dealing with these issues, or if you simply feel uncomfortable about seeking help internally, you could speak to a union or a civil society organization (CSO) catering to issues of GBV.

Preventing OGBV: What Can You Do?

Different groups in society should take the appropriate measures to help eradicate the threat of OGBV.

As an individual and potential target, you should:

  • Manage your social media wisely – Take care when it comes to posting, and ensure you carefully consider whether your social media accounts will be set as private or public.
  • Manage your passwords – Avoid using one uniform password for all accounts and update your passwords semi-regularly to prevent OGBV in the form of hacking.
  • Check your devices/hardware – Webcam hacking is a means of committing OGBV. Ensure you perform checks of your hardware. With webcams, ensure they are not positioned in full view of private spaces.
  • Protect your network – If you are worried about hacking, why not install a firewall, an anti-virus program, or some other form of protection?

As a teacher or parent, you should:

  • Teach children about healthy relationships, respect, consent, and productive communication.
  • Speak openly to children about online safety.
  • Teach children to set boundaries in terms of social media and tech usage, or implement some boundaries yourself.
  • Monitor children’s social media and tech usage.
  • Enlighten young people on where to get help and assistance in case of OGBV.
  • Provide a listening ear to young survivors of OGBV, and try to get familiarized with the language and resources to help support them.
  • At schools, refer the OGBV victim to the necessary services and have internal procedures in place for OGBV cases.
  • Implement policies and support systems for school staff who experience OGBV.

As a senior employee or manager in a private-sector company:

  • Provide gender-transformative training for employees to ensure safety from OGBV.
  • Invest in feminist tech.
  • Enforce clear policies and practices to prevent and respond to OGBV at the company.
  • Have clear and approachable channels or procedures in place for complaints.
  • Practice regular verbal reinforcement of human rights and gender equality at work.

Katie Lestner


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