The Human Rights-Based Approach to Combat Cyberbullying Against Women and Girls

The Human Rights-Based Approach to Combat Cyberbullying Against Women and Girls

Sabrina Ching Yuen Luk (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3479-3.ch029

Abstract

Cyberbullying against women and girls becomes more prevalent when the internet and mobile technologies become more widely available and accessible in terms of cost. It has led to multifaceted consequences that negatively affect victims' self-esteem, physical and mental health, behaviours, relationships with other people, and motivation to live, study, and work. This study argues that cyberbullying against women and girls is a major impediment to achieving gender equality and the full advancement of women. The adoption of a human rights-based approach to combat cyberbullying against women and girls is to encourage women to claim their rights to privacy and freedom of expression online and to be free from any physical, sexual, or psychological violence while recognizing the obligations of governments, employers, not-for-profit organizations, and social media site providers to respect, protect, and guarantee these rights.
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INTRODUCTION

Cyberbullying against women and girls has become more prevalent when the Internet and mobile technologies become more widely available and accessible in terms of cost. The use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) by an individual or group to intentionally embarrass, taunt, harass, threaten, torment or humiliate a woman or a girl takes places in blogs, on chat rooms or social networking sites, through emails, voice mails, texting, instant messaging, photo or video-clip sharing. This has led to multifaceted consequences that negatively affect the woman’s or the girl’s self-esteem, physical and mental health, behaviours, relationship with other people and motivation to live, study and work. At present, actions taken to combat cyberbullying against women and girls remain inadequate because of insufficient attention and support and deeply held prejudices against women. In order to have an in-depth investigation into this issue, this study examines what cyberbullying is, its causes and consequences, and a human rights based approach to combat cyberbullying against women and girls.

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Background

Women and girls have long been victims of physical violence and sexual violence. According to the 2013 Global Estimates published by World Health Organization, about 1 in 3 (35 percent) of women worldwide “have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime” (World Health Organization, 2017). Violence against women and girls “is prevalent in every society in the world” (UNiTE, n.d.) that it “cuts across boundaries of wealth, race and culture” (UNiTE, n.d.). It “is rooted in gender-based discrimination and social norms and gender stereotypes that perpetuate such violence” (UN Women, n.d.). Although some measures have been taken by governments across countries to end such violence, the continued prevalence of violence against women and girls is “yet to be tackled with all the necessary political commitment, action and resources” (UNiTE, n.d.).

Over the past decade, cyberbullying has become a new form of violence against women and girls. Cyberbullying refers to the use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) by an individual or group to intentionally embarrass, taunt, harass, threaten, torment or humiliate a person through a range of hostile and aggressive behaviours, such as trolling, stalking or doxing. Trolling disturbs or harms another person by posting irrelevant, unpleasant and offensive messages online while stalking causes a person to fear for his or her safety or suffer other emotional distress by willfully tracing, following and monitoring such person online without his or her consent. Doxing involves revealing identifiable information about someone online without his or her consent, including one’s real name, home address, phone number and email address (Amnesty International, 2018, p.29). Over the past decade, cyberbullying has become more prevalent when the Internet and mobile technologies become more widely available and accessible in terms of cost. It takes places in blogs, on chat rooms or social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. It also takes places through emails, voice mails, texting, instant messaging, photo or video-clip sharing. “As the bullying process continues, the frequency and intensity of the aggressions tend to increase” (Forssell, 2018). Cyberbullying involves an imbalance of power between the perpetrator and the victim due to the perpetrator having the expert knowledge of the Internet (Ybarra and Mitchell, 2004), the anonymity of the perpetrator, the aggression directed towards the victim and the fear created in the victim (Betts, 2016, pp.15-16). Cyberbullies are able to “hide their identities by using screen names and well-hidden internet protocol addresses, leaving the target vulnerable and unsettled” (Hoff and Mitchell, 2009, p.653). While most of the time the identities of cyberbullies are unknown to the victims, cyberbullies can be someone from the victim’s social circle, such as a close friend, a classmate, a co-worker, a current or former boyfriend or girlfriend. In the virtual world, the removal of geographical and time constraints allows the acts associated with cyberbullying to be witnessed by an unlimited audience (Betts, 2016, p.39). This has the effect of the victim “experiencing repeated humiliation because although the act is not repeated the negative experience associated with it is” (Betts, 2016, p.38).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Freedom of Expression: The right of a person to freely express himself or herself orally or in writing.

Gender Equality: Equal rights and opportunities enjoyed by men and women.

Right to Privacy: The right of a person to be free from public scrutiny or intrusion into matters of a personal nature.

Depression: A mental disorder that causes a person to have constant feelings of sadness and worthlessness and lose interests in study, work, friends, hobbies and so on.

Stalking: To willfully trace, follow and monitor a person online without his or her consent.

Cyberbullying: The use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) by an individual or group to intentionally embarrass, taunt, harass, threaten, torment, or humiliate a person.

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