Europe and Central Asia Region is Steadfast in Tackling Technology-Facilitated Violence Against Women and Creating Safer Digital Spaces

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New regional research unveiled: A step closer to understanding the complex dynamics of technology-facilitated violence against women.

Around 100 representatives from civil society organizations, national gender mechanisms, ombuds offices, global development partners, technology companies, academia and experts from various backgrounds convened on the 29th of November to explore together new insights into technology-facilitated violence against women in Southeast and Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. The event marked the official launch of the brand-new action-oriented research “The Dark Side of Digitalization: Technology-Facilitated Violence Against Women in Eastern Europe and Central Asia” and was organized by UN Women Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia and co-convened with the Generation Equality Action Coalition on Gender-Based Violence and the Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation.

After a year-long research investigating the forms and prevalence of technology-facilitated violence against women in the region and its impact on women and girls’ attitudes, experiences and access to services, the research reveals that more than half of women (53.2%) in Europe and Central Asia, specifically from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo[1], Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Tajikistan, Türkiye, and Ukraine, have experienced technology-facilitated violence during their lifetime. Notably, more than one third of women facing tech-facilitated violence encountered it on popular social media platforms, while 1 in 10 had similar experiences on email or messaging apps.

Gülden Türköz-Cosslett, Regional Director a.i. for UN Women Europe and Central Asia, emphasized technology’s dual role as an enabler of empowerment and, regrettably, as a tool for intensified gender-based violence. “In the ever-evolving landscape of the 21st century, digitalization continues to shape our world. This research, launched within the framework of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, brings us closer to understanding tech-facilitated violence against women. In all its forms, tech-facilitated violence has the same motivations: to control, to marginalize and restrict women’s freedom,” concluded Gülden Türköz-Cosslett.

Auður Edda Jökulsdóttir, Special Envoy for Gender Equality at the Directorate for International Affairs and Policy of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Iceland, highlighted the global surge in tech-facilitated violence against women and stressed the urgent need for preventive solutions. “Over the past few years, the phenomenon of tech-facilitated violence against women in all its forms has accelerated. We continue to have gaps in policies, programmatic approaches, and data collection to effectively address this issue. A coordinated action and sharing of best practices across countries and sectors are imperative,” said Jökulsdóttir.

Lead researcher Marija Babovic unveiled the key conclusions and critical findings from action-oriented research, drawing on surveys with over 12,000 women across the regions and interviews with state and civil society representatives. One significant outcome highlighted that while technology and digitalization offer powerful tools for women’s empowerment, they also provide perpetrators with means to commit and intensify violence against women. “Rapid advancements in technology and its consequent misuse outpace the ability of state and civil society actors to respond effectively to violence against women,” concluded Marija Babovic.

Veronica Teleucă, coordinator of the National Coalition Life without Violence from Moldova, affirmed that tech-facilitated violence is a new form of violence for professionals working with women and children survivors of violence. “It is one of the many forms of gender-based violence. In our practice, it complements, perpetuates, and exacerbates offline forms of violence,” concluded Veronica Teleucă.

The event delved into insights on preventing, investing in, and responding to technology-facilitated violence against women. It also explored the existing normative and institutional landscape, as well as the roles and perspectives of relevant stakeholders in providing prevention and support services to survivors of technology-facilitated violence.

Robert Gajda, Commissioner for the Protection from Discrimination in Albania, welcomed the release of the research, highlighting the lack of conspicuous studies, analysis, and monitoring on this issue in Albania. “This research helps us advocate for policies and strategies, bridging national and international perspectives. In Albania, we face challenges due to a lack of understanding and capacities in dealing with this problem,” stated Robert Gajda.

The event outlined recommended actions and success stories for state actors, civil society, regional and subregional institutions, and technology companies to enhance prevention and response strategies for technology-facilitated violence against women. 

Cindy Southworth, Head of Women’s Safety at Metahared, shared company’s commitment to preventing tech-facilitated violence against women through new tools on their social media platform. “Meta has developed features to counter hate speech and harassment, such as comment warning. When users attempt to post a harmful comment, the platform warns them that the comment may be hurtful to others. This has prompted behavioural change among platform users,” mentioned Cindy Southworth.

Closing the event, Katri Viinikka, Finland’s Ambassador for Gender Equality, highlighted that this new piece of research stands as an important milestone. “The lack of data on tech-facilitated violence against women is extensive. To tackle this problem, information is the prerequisite.”

Source : ECA