Violence against women online during COVID-19 and beyond

As part of the UN Women’s ’Take five’ segment, Cecilia Mwende Maundu, broadcast journalist and specialist in gender digital safety, says the online violence against women (VAW) during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic needs to be taken more seriously.

During the lockdown, women and girls are spending more time online to learn and stay connected. They are also experiencing more of physical threats, sexual harassment, stalking, zoombombing, and sex trolling. People who commit online violence are less likely to face consequences.

Women with a strong public voice, female journalists, or female politicians are often the target of online harassment, which usually turns into sexualised hate or threats. As a result, women turn to self-censorship online, or even leave online platforms altogether. This results in physical, sexual, psychological, or economic harm.

Women’s privacy is often also under attack. Maundu shares the example of a woman who was the first COVID-19 patient released from a hospital. Her private photos were taken and shared widely, while she was accused of being paid by the government to lie about being sick. She said that it is important for women and girls to know that it is their right to be online and to be part of social media free of harassment.