Digital platforms held responsible for increasing VAWG cases


December 1, 2023


Digital platforms held responsible for increasing VAWG cases

Image for Representation/ Image source 16dayscampaign.org

KATHMANDU: Digital platforms have reportedly witnessed a surge in reported cases of violence against women and girls, contradicting Nepal’s constitutional guarantees of a violence and coercion-free life.

Police data reveals a significant escalation in online violence cases over recent fiscal years. In the fiscal year 2021/22, a total of 4,686 online violence incidents were reported, with 2,389 cases specifically related to VAWG. This number surged to a staggering 9,013 incidents in fiscal year 2022/23, with 4,590 cases focusing on VAWG alone. Within the initial five months of the current fiscal year 2023/24, reports of digital violence have already reached 7,253 cases, encompassing 3,309 VAWG cases.

Upon analysis of these figures, it was observed that Facebook Messenger topped the list for reporting online violence cases, accounting for 3,956 incidents in 2021/22, escalating to 6,782 in 2022/23, and 5,691 cases in the ongoing fiscal year. TikTok followed with 233, 721, and 666 cases respectively, while WhatsApp reported 96, 258, and 320 cases. Instagram documented 76, 551, and 279 cases, and incidents from banks, organizations, and institutions totaled 127, 221, and 89 cases across the mentioned fiscal years.

Mohna Ansari, former National Human Rights Commissioner, highlighted that the number could be higher, as many female victims choose not to report VAWG cases to authorized service providers. She stated that a significant 61 percent of women affected by violence conceal their ordeals under various circumstances.

NDI Nepal organized a discussion on combating online violence against women in politics, coinciding with the ongoing 16 days of activism against violence against women, 2023, initiated on November 25 and concluding on December 10 this year.

During the panel discussion, several current and former people’s representatives, including Kiran Kumar Sah, President of the Women and Social Affairs Committee, Nagina Yadav, a parliament member, former minister Ram Kumari Jhakri, former parliament member Amrita Thapa Magar, and Ansari, shared their experiences of violence and proposed measures to address it.

Former minister Jhakri, recounting her experiences of digital violence, urged immediate action against the increasing cases of VAWG, especially concerning vulnerable rural populations lacking access to mechanisms to combat cyber violence.

She urged collective efforts to combat violence and stressed the importance of victims stepping forward to seek remedies.

Chair Sah emphasized the need to abolish gender-based biases while socially, politically, and economically empowering women.

Ansari highlighted the necessity for a supportive societal framework for women in distress, stressing the importance of legal awareness and the effective implementation of cyber laws in the country.

Participants highlighted the economic costs of VAWG, citing an IMF blog referencing a 2022 research paper, stating that a one percentage point increase in violence against women correlates with a nine percent reduction in economic activity. Additionally, the World Bank’s Voice and Agency Report of 2014 emphasized the substantial development costs of VAWG, nearly equivalent to the global majority country governments’ spending on primary education.

Police data disclosed 16,519 cases of domestic violence and 4,394 cases of other gender-based violence registered in the past year. The statistics revealed that 80 percent of gender-based violence incidents in the country constitute domestic violence, with 53 percent being physical and 47 percent mental. Moreover, 89 percent of women and girls experience violence from individuals known to them.

The World Health Organization’s estimates released in March 2021 indicate that nearly one in three women globally faces physical or sexual violence in her lifetime, mostly in the form of intimate partner violence. The South-East Asia Region ranks second highest at approximately 33 percent in this regard, according to the estimates.