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What is Cyber Violence Against Women?

In India, as elsewhere all over the world, the online harassment of women and marginalized genders and sexualities is rampant, in contrast to the Internet’s initial premise of equal opportunity and neutrality. What we have today is a flawed internet that reflects the offline world we live in, where women and marginalized communities are abused, harassed, threatened, stalked and violated on a daily basis. This paper aims to analyse the unique threats that women and marginalized sections in India face online and how Indian laws affect these problems.

What does our research say?

FII in collaboration with Freedom House conducted a research – analysis of media reports involving online harassment of high profile women, a survey of 500 women and marginalized genders and interviews with ten of the respondents (Download the entire report here). We found out:

Have you faced online violence?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Maybe

Topics that invite violence

Feminism 90%
Govt & Politics 80%
Religion 70%

Violence from males or females

Response to online violence

Block 76.1%
Report 58.2%
No response 35.3%

Violence includes

Abuse and hate speech 61%
Derogatory comments about your gender 56.2%
Mass trolling 35.7%

Affects of online violence

Self-censorship 90%
Mental health issues 70%
Public defamation 55%

Privacy Policies on social media websites

Need to be stronger 54.6%
More options to report and block 51.6%
Easier to implement 42.6%

Women don't report because

  • Not taken seriously
  • Cops not aware
  • Embarassing
  • Waste of time
  • Other

What does the cyber law in India say?

Criminal Amendment Act 2013

  1. Section 354A: demanding sexual favours/showing pornography against will.
  2. Section 354C: voyeurism and disseminating such information without consent.
  3. Section 354D: cyberstalking, despite clear indication of disinterest, or monitoring cyber activity.

Information Technology Act, 2008

  1. Section 66C: identity theft
  2. Section 66E: violation of privacy
  3. Section 67: publication and transmission of obscene content
  4. Section 67A: publication and transmission of sexually explicit material.
  5. Section 67B: publication and transmission of child pornography
  6. Section 72: breach of privacy and publication of material without consent.

Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Bill, 2012

The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Amendment Bill, 2012 seeks to broaden the scope of the law to cover the audio-visual media and content in electronic form, prescribing stringent penalties which would act as deterrent to violation of the law.

As per the proposed amendments, distribution of material will also include distribution on the internet.

What are we doing?

In 2016, we launched the #DigitalHifazat campaign alongside our research report that studied how women are subject to online violence during the 16 Days of Activism. The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence is a global campaign that was started in 1991.The campaign hopes to raise awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international level.

Based on the findings of our research report, we advocated for a safe and secure internet for all using articles and videos to illustrate the rampant nature of online violence against women.

In 2017, we expanded this campaign to take a broader look at the ways in which women experience the internet – both good and bad. The internet can be a space of violence, but also one of empowerment. We looked at ways in which women use the internet to fight back against oppressive systems of power that seek to limit their voice and expression.

Furthermore, oppression is intersectional, and we hoped to display how different communities of women in India experience the internet – their struggles, their victories, how it empowers them and how they envision #DigitalHifazat – situated within their specific sociopolitical identities and experiences.

With this in mind, we launched a series of 4 videos that answered the questions we had about how women used the internet. The first video was a crowdsourced video where 6 young women spoke about their experiences of the internet in response to an open call on our social media platforms. This was followed by women with disabilities, Dalit women and finally, queer women (and queer Dalit women!), talking about their challenges and victories in the online sphere.

#DigitalHifazat Videos

#DigitalHifazat Stories

#DigitalHifazat Posters

Events & Conferences

Indian School of Governance, Hyderabad

Digital Citizen Summit by DEF India, Bengaluru

Live Talk on #DigitalHifazat with WION Amicus

Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 2016, Mexico


Feminism in India won the Social Media For Empowerment Award 2017 under the Online Safety category for our campaign #DigitalHifazat by the Digital Empowerment Foundation.

Press & Media Coverage

1. Call for #DigitalHifazat to combat violence against women in virtual spaces, Factor Daily

  1. Online abuse “affects” 50% plus Indian women using social media, 36% don’t respond due to “lack of support”, Counterview
  2. Keeping the internet safe for women and marginalized communities in India, Access Now

  3. Feminism in India: how simple technologies give women a voice and push shame away, Womanity

  4. Survey Finds Nearly 50% of Women In Indian Cities Face Online Abuse, Fewer Report Them, Indiatimes

  5. Online abuse remains a serious issue in India, NewsX

7. Only a quarter of world’s Internet users got free access in 2016, The Hindu

  1. Freedom on the Net 2016 India Country Report, Freedom House

  2. Digital Violence in India: Silencing Women’s Voices Online and What We Need To Do About It, CIMA Blog


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