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?

Like every year, we are running a camapign around 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.

In 2014, we ran 16 DOA Campaign Against Sexual Harassment where we asked people to submit personal stories of sexual harassment to shift the focus from the survivor to the perpetrator. In 2015, we ran #GBVInMedia where we analysed media misrepresentation and misreportage of gender-based violence.

This year, based on our research report, we are running a campaign against online abuse and harassment that women face especially on social media websites. Our campaign #DigitalHifazat – name courtesy Raju Tai – campaigns for a secure and safe internet for all.

How can you participate?

As we demand for #DigitalHifazat, we ask you, how do you imagine your internet, what do you want to see in your idea of a safe and secure internet?

  • Share your story with us – it can be a story, video, image, artwork, comic, audio podcast, memes, etc.
  • Spread the word – share this campaign call with your friends on social and tag us with #DigitalHifazat
  • Send us your reccommendations – what do you think we can do to make the web more secure for women and marginalized groups? Tell us!

Let’s build our #DigitalHifazat together!

#DigitalHifazat Video

#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

Press & Media Coverage

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

2. Online abuse “affects” 50% plus Indian women using social media, 36% don’t respond due to “lack of support”, Counterview

3. Keeping the internet safe for women and marginalized communities in India, Access Now

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

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

6. 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

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

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


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