Violence against women is one of the most widespread human rights violations in the world, and it results in physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, and its means and tools vary with the passage of time and the growing information and technological revolution.
“Digital violence” is the most dangerous type of violence that women who use social networking sites in particular are facing recently, with the increase in the scope of the Internet where virtual life intersects with reality, restrictions are broken, and privacy vanishes, which may represent a threat to societal stability in general.
Given the growing form of violence and its serious repercussions on societies, the Strategic Forum for Public Policies and Development Studies “Draya” issues this report, which deals in detail with the definition of the concept of “digital violence”, its types, repercussions and indicators at the Arab and local levels, as well as the efforts of the Egyptian state to confront this phenomenon and presenting some proposals that may contribute to reducing it.
The report addresses this issue through the following axes:
First: the concept of digital violence
Second: the characteristics and types of digital violence
Third: the repercussions of digital violence on women
Fourth: Indicators of the prevalence of digital violence against women in the Arab world and locally
Fifth: The Egyptian state’s efforts to confront violence against women
Sixth: Proposals to confront digital violence against women
Seventh: Proposals to confront digital violence against women
First: the concept of digital violence against women
The United Nations defines violence against women in general as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women and girls, including threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation.” freedom, whether in the public or private sphere. Violence against women and girls includes, but is not limited to, physical, sexual and psychological violence that occurs in the family or within the general community, and is committed or condoned by the state.”
Based on the fact that digital violence against women is an extension and perpetuation of violence against her in the real world, digital violence can be defined as “the deliberate behavior of an individual or group of individuals through one of the techniques of electronic social networking sites and its various tools with the aim of material or moral harm to others.” “.It can also be defined as any act of violence against women that is committed using mobile phones, the Internet, text messages, e-mail, or social media.
Second: Characteristics and types of digital violence
Successive technological developments have imposed a number of features of digital or electronic violence that have made it more impactful on women victims than other forms of violence, which can be summarized in the following characteristics:
1- More severe in its repercussions than the methods of traditional violence: the perpetrators of this type of crime enjoy the possibility of concealing their real names and identities, and the extent of his crimes impact on the victim is not known, which may sometimes lead to suicide for fear of stigma, discrimination or defamation that the female may be subjected to. or her family.
2-Global and transnational: This type of violence against women is not prevented by the boundaries of space or time. Technological progress is also used to diversify the form and content of violent, aggressive and illegal practices at any time, transcending geographical and temporal boundaries without any restrictions.
3-Evolving and continuing: Electronic violence is constantly evolving with the development of modern technological methods that help the impact of this violence to remain for a long time. It is also a continuous behavior in most of its cases, as in cases of insult, slander and defamation, unless the perpetrator is caught and technical intervention is made to end these crimes.
4- The ease of its occurrence and the speed of its spread: This is due to the rapid spread of malicious and false information and rumors and the ease of access to them, and they are often irretrievable. Once they are published on the Internet, the offender cannot stop them.
5- Absence of physical interaction: There is no physical interaction between the communicating parties (the perpetrator – the victim), and it does not require great energy in confronting the victims like traditional violence, and it also depends on mental and mental skill and competence, not the physical.
6- Easy access to the victim and the difficulty of her self-defense: Social media enabled the perpetrators to reach the victim at any time and in any place, and at the same time made it very difficult for the victim to defend herself or avoid this type of violence.
The United Nations Women’s Organization has identified the types of digital violence directed against women in 6 forms as follows:
1- Hacking: using the technology to illegally or unauthorized access to women’s systems or accounts for the purpose of obtaining personal information, changing or modifying their information, or defaming and discrediting the target victim.
2- Impersonation: Technology is used to carry the identity of the victim or another person in order to gain access to private information, embarrass or disgrace the victim, communicate with them, or create false identity documents.
3- Tracking: Technology is used to stalk and monitor the victim’s activities and behaviors, either at the time of their occurrence or which occurred earlier.
4- Harassment: the use of technology to continuously communicate, disturb, threaten or intimidate the victim, provided that this behavior is repeated and continuous and not a single incident, through continuous calls, text messages, voice mail or e-mail.
5- Recruitment: Technology is used to attract potential victims in cases of violence, for example fraudulent jobs and advertisements, whether on social media or job opportunity sites.
Third: The repercussions of digital violence on women
The repercussions of digital violence on women usually lead to results that outweigh the negative effects of traditional types of violence. And come on top of them:
1- Psychological repercussions: Women who have been exposed to one or more forms of electronic violence usually suffer from depression, isolation, stigma and shame, and sometimes they may resort to suicide.
2- Social repercussions: Victims’ families usually prefer not to disclose the cybercrimes their girls are exposed to, for fear of what society and those around them will look at, and the growing doubts about the behavior of these girls. It deepens the feelings of anger within these societies, especially the conservative Arab ones.
3- Economic repercussions: Digital violence and defamation of the victim may lead to her losing her job and reducing her opportunity to join another job. The matter becomes even darker if the victim is a woman who supports the family. Her exposure to this type of crime and her inability to defend herself makes the family’s economic situation extremely difficult and affects directly to the children.
Fourth: Indicators of the prevalence of digital violence against women in the Arab world and locally
The United Nations Population Fund indicated in its latest census that the global prevalence rate of digital violence against women and girls is 85%, and this includes women who have personally experienced or witnessed it against other women.
1-Digital violence against women at the Arab level
The results of a survey conducted by UN-Women’s regional office in the Arab States (May 2020) showed that online violence was the most reported form of violence during the early months of the pandemic, as follows:
-49% of female Internet users in Arab countries report that they do not feel safe because of online harassment.
-16% of women in Arab countries report experiencing online violence at least once in their lives.
-60% of women who have ever experienced online violence experienced it during the Corona pandemic.
Iraqi women have the highest rates of exposure to digital violence at a rate of 70.4%, followed by Yemeni women at a rate of 62.3%, then Jordanian women at a rate of 60.4%, as shown in the following figure:
Figure 1: Percentage of women who have previously experienced online violence
-44% of women who have experienced online violence have experienced it more than once.
-The most common form of digital violence is receiving unsolicited images or symbols of sexual content at 43%, followed by harassing phone calls or inappropriate communications at 38%, receiving insulting messages at 35%, and direct sexual extortion at 22%.
-Facebook is the first platform in which women are exposed to violence at a rate of 43%, followed by Instagram at a rate of 16%, then WhatsApp at a rate of 11%, as the following figure shows:
Figure No. (2) Platforms in which women in Arab countries are exposed to violence on the Internet
12% of women who were subjected to violence on the Internet, reported their exposure to physical violence after informing the family of the incident.
35% of women who were subjected to violence on the Internet reported feeling sad and depressed, among them about 35% reported that they had lost confidence in the people around them, while 12% of women reported that they had suicidal thoughts.
Following digital violence, 36% of women subjected to online violence were asked to ignore the order, 23% were blamed, 21% were asked to delete their social media accounts and about 12% were subjected to physical violence by the family, as illustrated in the following figure:
Figure No. (3) The effects of digital violence on women’s lives
51% of women confirm that the attack on them via the Internet was “without a specific reason”, while about 23% of them believed that the reason was their outward appearance, and about 16% believed that the reason lies behind the advocacy of women’s rights.
2- Digital violence against women in Egypt
Egyptian society has witnessed great and successive technological developments in recent years, and digital transformation has become a priority for the Egyptian state apparatus, which allowed the majority of individuals to increasingly use the Internet and social networks, as they spend most of their time on it and share their private lives through it, which coincided with an increase in the rates of women’s exposure to violence.
According to data from the Ministry of Communications, the percentage of women who use the Internet to communicate with others through social networks such as “Facebook” and “Twitter” is about 91.2%, compared to 94.87% for males.
The latest report of the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics revealed that the number of Internet users via mobile phone increased by 12.5% during the first 10 months of 2022, as the number of Internet users during the first 10 months of 2022 reached about 69.5 million users, compared to 61.8 million users during the same period. The period from 2021.
These high percentages of internet and social media use indicate an increased likelihood of women in Egyptian society being exposed to digital violence. This was confirmed by an opinion poll conducted by Plan International, which was published by the Ministry of Social Solidarity on its website, as it indicated a high percentage of girls in Egypt who were subjected to electronic harassment, which is a form of digital violence.
Sixth: State efforts to confront digital violence against women
The issue of combating and eliminating violence against women in all its forms receives great attention from the state, as all state agencies work to preserve women’s rights and not harm them in any way, as stipulated in the 2014 constitution, which includes many articles that guarantee the empowerment of women and the protection of women. her rights. The most important efforts are as follows:
- The Egyptian legislator has been working on issuing a law on electronic harassment, and the legislator has described harassment as every exposure to others in a public or private place, or subjected to sexual or pornographic matters, suggestions, or insinuations, whether by sign, word, or deed by any means, including wired communications. or wireless or electronic, or any other technical means.
2-He set penalties for private and general deterrence, and he was included in the penalty of imprisonment between two and four years, and included in the fine between 100 thousand pounds to 200 thousand pounds, or one of these two penalties. The legislator has increased the penalty in the event of repeating the act to imprisonment for a period of not less than three years and not exceeding five years and a fine of not less than two hundred thousand pounds and not more than three hundred thousand pounds, or one of these two penalties.
- The Egyptian legislator is currently working to amend Law No. 175 of 2018 regarding combating information technology crimes to make it in line with the technological development in the current era to address the crimes of personal extortion suffered by members of society, especially girls, in light of the social system in the Arab world, where girls are subject to many restrictions and controls Which makes them vulnerable to pressure, which makes it easier to blackmail and put pressure on them.
4-Therefore, the legislator thought of amending Article (25) that relates to the sanctity of private life and attacking it through filming, recording, or eavesdropping without the knowledge or consent of the person, or in cases other than those authorized by law, or publishing information, news, or pictures that violate the privacy of others without their consent, whether Was this information correct or incorrect?As well as Article (26), which relates to the use of modern information programs and technologies and the possibility of changing the reality that would affect the dignity, honor and person of a person, which would expose him to extortion and threats.
5 Launching the National Strategy to Combat Violence against Women 2015-2020 to meet the needs of society in confronting violence against women in all its forms and manifestations, through four main axes: prevention, protection, interventions and legal prosecution.
6- The Ministry of Interior worked to firmly address the practices of violence against women in general and digital violence in particular, in several ways:
7- Allocating special units in police stations to confront violence against women, as female police officers have been appointed to examine facts related to them.-
8- Increasing the number of patrols designated for rapid intervention in response to any emergency communications related to violence against women.
9- Organizing courses at the Police Academy in the field of combating violent crimes against women, with a review of the best international practices on coping, cooperation and support mechanisms to reduce these crimes.
10 – Dedicating an operations room to receive harassment complaints – including electronic harassment – through hotlines designated for this purpose.
11- The National Council for Women established units to combat violence against girls in Egyptian universities in cooperation with the Ministry of Higher Education and the United Nations Population Fund with the aim of supporting the basic concepts of equality and equal opportunities to achieve empowerment and psychological and social support for women, as 23 units have already been established and supported at the level of public universities and 3 units in private universities .
12-The establishment of the Egyptian Women’s Observatory with the aim of following up the implementation of the goals related to the status of women in the period from 2015 to 2030 through:-Preparing a set of periodic reports on the status of Egyptian women and the gender gap.
13- Inventory and presentation of laws related to women.
14- Measuring the progress achieved in all areas related to the empowerment and protection of women by following up the values of the indicators of the follow-up to the National Strategy for the Empowerment of Egyptian Women 2030 and the indicators of sustainable development related to women.
15- Launching a number of campaigns through which violence can be addressed, especially digital, most notably.
16-Campaign “Don’t be silent” on highways, and design and broadcast audio and video advertisements to encourage reporting of cases of harassment.
17- “Speak…Protect yourself and others” campaign to raise awareness of electronic dangers and ways to report digital violence.
18- Launching the “Railway Safety” campaign at railway stations to raise awareness of forms of violence against women.
The media played a prominent role in this regard, as it established platforms for social communication with the aim of eradicating digital illiteracy and spreading awareness of the seriousness of electronic crimes and digital violence that women may be exposed to, and how to protect digital devices from hacking and theft of personal information.
Seventh: Proposals to confront digital violence against women
The Egyptian state has made strenuous efforts, especially under the current political leadership, to empower women and protect them from any violence they may be exposed to. The directives of the political leadership motivated all state agencies to accelerate the pace in this regard. However, there are proposals that can contribute to preserving women against digital violence:
1- Addressing the people’s representatives to issue laws to confront technological development and the danger it poses in blackmailing and practicing violence against women, with demands that domestic and digital violence be classified as a crime against honor and should be recorded in the criminal record in case of recurrence.
2- Religious institutions, Al-Azhar and the Church, correct misconceptions about the nature of women and how to deal with them in a manner that preserves their dignity without harming them, and stresses the prevention of women’s exposure to violence in all its forms and forms, in accordance with the purposes of religion and custom in society.
3- The need for the media to prepare educational programmes, whether for women to know their rights and how to obtain them, or for young men and men to learn how to properly deal with women without harming them or exposing them to psychological and material harm. In addition to the important role of awareness about the laws related to the phenomenon of electronic violence so that some do not believe that when practicing this type of violence, he will be far from the penalty of law and accountability.
4- Tightening control over media and dramatic content, and removing any manifestations that promote violence in all its forms and manifestations, while highlighting the positive aspect of human relations.