In line with our purpose to eliminate injustice against women, Fe-Male has been following closely and with great concern the growing number of reported cases of cyber violence against women and girls. According to Fe-Male’s exclusive data from The Internal Security Forces Directorate in Lebanon, more than a hundred cases of different forms of cyber-violence are being monthly reported by women and girls.
Today, Fe-Male launches “Screens Do Not Protect” campaign to emphasize once and for all that women and girls in the Arab world have the right to access the internet and use it safely without the risk of being subject to any form of cyber-violence. As Hayat Mirshad, Co-director of Fe-Male, noted, “the Covid19 ongoing crisis have left us with the various internet platforms as our only outlet to go about with our professional and personal lives. As such, girls and women who are usually exposed to online violence are now consequently more at risk of a violence that is taking so many shapes and forms”.
According to the General Directorate of the General Security in Lebanon, the different forms of cybercrimes recorded against women and girls include: Online harassment, exposure to public morals, sextortion, extortion, defamation threats, degrade and defame, electronic identity theft including social media accounts, emails among others. These crimes have led to dire consequences of women and girls lives. In 2019 alone two girls committed suicide and another one attempted to, as a result of cyber blackmail.
“Screens Do Not Protect “campaign aims, according to Mirshad at “protecting women in the exercise of the right to access internet. As such the campaign will include raising awareness on the right of women and girls to access internet safely while providing them with insight on the threats and challenges that come along. The campaign will also provide women and girls with some techniques through which they can ensure their safety online, with emphasizing their right to seek retribution and duty to report perpetrators who will definitely be penalized and held accountable even if the attack was done online”.
Since its establishment, Fe-Male prioritizes the attainment of online protection in its work, and considers this to be crucial especially with the increase in the rates of cybercrimes committed against women and girls.
– Fe-Male is a civil feminist collective working with women and girls to eliminate injustice through building young feminist movement, empowering agents of change, and campaigning together against discriminatory norms and policies. Fe-Male was registered as a National Non-Governmental Organization in 2013 (registered under the number 867/2013 AD).
– “Screens Do Not Protect” means that contrary to common assumptions violence against women is not restricted to physical contact and that the virtual world where we supposedly hide behind our screens has its share of risks to women and girls’ lives and privacy particularly if they were unaware of these and did not take the appropriate technical precautions to protect themselves . The screen is not protection by itself. This applies not only to the victim but also to the perpetrator who can be penalized for their cybercriminal actions.
Cyber-Violence Facts and Numbers:
1. Data received from the Internal Security Forces provided Fe-Male with the following numbers of the reported cases on cyber-crimes against women and girls only:
– 1123 reported cases in 2018
– 1270 reported cases in 2019
– 315 reported cases until the end of March 2020
– Numbers indicated that women and girls of all age ranges are prone to be victims of cyber-crimes, where the age ranges that reported online violence were 12 to 55 years old.
– The percentage of cyber-crimes committed against girls, age 12 to 26, was 41%, while those 26 and above reached 27%.
2. According to the Lebanese Internal Security Forces, during the national lockdown period alone, the percentage of general reported cases of cyber-crimes amplified to 184%:
– 122 complaints between February 21, 2020 and April 21, 2020.
– 43 complaints between December 20, 2019 and February 20, 2019.
3. According to Bio Research Center, women and girls are more likely to experience online harassment compared to men, where the possibility of young girls using dating applications is double that of young men.
4. Social media platforms are the most popular spaces for cyber-violence. However, some might be perpetrated through offline texting or texting applications like Whatsapp.
5. Dating applications are currently working on developing tools to fight online harassment and threats during the use of their platforms.
6. Parents do not monitor their children and adolescents while using online platforms, which makes them, especially young girls, an easy target for cyber-blackmail. Many of these girls are usually younger than the enclosed age, and are not subject to parental guidance.
7. Most of the women and girls who use the internet are unaware that they are protected by privacy settings.