The Digital Dimension of Violence
A lot of people hearing the phrase “violence against women” tend to think physical or verbal abuse’ committed behind closed doors (some do not even think of psychological or economic abuse) and definitely not violence committed by a person(s) hiding behind a screen, which can take place in different forms through digital and creative means.
Women make up the majority of those not only exposed to different forms of violence but also to different places where such violence may be expressed / committed to.
The Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO*) in monitoring the implementation of the Istanbul Convention, has identified major gaps in domestic laws regarding violence against women through such technologies and online and that this dimension of violence is overlooked . On the eve of the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, i.e. on 24 November 2021, GREVIO published General Recommendation No. 1 for the digital dimension of violence against women (the “Recommendation for the digital dimension of violence“), the first one adopted by the Council of Europe, which outlines the problem of both gender-based violence against women committed online and facilitated by technology, while making specific recommendations to its Member States.
It is important to point out that, the Recommendation for the digital dimension of violence has introduced the term ‘digital violence against women’ as a term which embodies a wide range of behaviours that fall within the term of violence against women, as provided in article 3a of the Istanbul Convention.
Digital dimension of violence against women
This term includes all acts of gender- based violence against women that result in, or are likely to result in, physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life” .
Non-consensual image or video sharing, coercion and threats, including rape threats, sexualised bullying and other forms of intimidation, online sexual harassment, impersonation, online stalking or stalking via the Internet of Things as well as psychological abuse and economic harm perpetrated via digital means against women and girls all come under the above definition.
Johanna Nelles, Executive Secretary of GREVIO stated, that data from various sources indicate the increased digital violence and use of technology against women and girls, whilst at the same time impunity tends to be the rule rather than the exception.
GREVIO’s first ever general recommendation “draws attention to the need to acknowledge violence against women in its digital dimension as a continuum of violence against women offline”https://t.co/Dha5sny5nz— Dr Paul McGorrery (@paulmcgorrery) December 1, 2021
Ping @DrBridgetHarris @AsherFlynn @tweetinjules @Dr_AnastasiaP pic.twitter.com/xnRQrLfXfK
Digital technology has become an essential tool for our lives yet every day we see new examples of how it undermines human rights. Online sexual harassment, cyberbullying , publishing images and videos without consent, stalkerwares and spousewares, have harmful effects and it is not hard to imagine the impact they would have on women.
Τhe picture of the problem
🔸 According to the EU wide survey of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights of 2014 regarding violence against women, some 14 % of women have received offensive or threatening messages or phone calls repeatedly from the same person .
🔸According to the Women’s Aid report following an online survey of 307 women survivors of domestic violence, 45% reported experiencing some form of abuse online during their relationship, including through social networking sites or over email and 48% reported experiencing harassment or abuse online from their ex-partner once they’d left the relationship. 38% reported online stalking once they’d left the relationship. 
🔸 According to a report titled “Toxic Twitter” issued by Amensty International, more than a quarter of the women polled (26%) who had experienced online abuse or harassment, said they had received threats of physical or sexual assault .
🔸 In a recent research conducted by the non-governmental organisation Plan International (which focuses on violence against women) it was uncovered that more than half of the 14.000 questioned women (aged 15-25) from 22 different countries were stalked online or were online abused. .
The Recommendation for the digital dimension of violence includes recommendations for the Contracting Parties which are based on the four pillars of the Istanbul Convention, the so called 4Ps (1.Prevention, 2. Protection, 3. Prosecution and 4. Coordinated Policies) .
Forthewomen considers that,
although carrying out a specialised research in Cyprus is welcomed in order to establish as much as possible the extent of the digital dimension of violence against women in our country, a mechanism should be created to record incidents of digital/cyber violence by all stakeholders (judicial, police, medical authorities, organisations), so that not only occasional statistics are collected.
In our next article, we will be discussing the Cyprus legal provisions relevant to the digital dimension of violence against women.
*The Convention prescrbied the mechanism for monitoring the implementation of the Convention on a Member-State level. In particular, according to Article 66 of the Istanbul Convention provides that the Group of experts on action against violence against women and domestic violence
shall monitor the implementation of this Convention by
 Paragraph 33 of the General Recommendation No. 1 for the digital dimension of violence against women https://rm.coe.int/grevio-rec-no-on-digital-violence-against-women/1680a49147
 Fundamental Rights Agency (2014), “Violence against women: an EU-wide survey. Main results report”, available at https://fra.europa.eu/en/publication/2014/violence-againstwomen-eu-wide-survey-main-results-report.
Laxton C. and Women’s Aid (2014), “Virtual World, Real Fear – Women’s Aid report into online abuse, harassment and stalking”, available at https://1q7dqy2unor827bqjls0c4rn-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Women_s_Aid_Virtual_World_Real_Fear_Feb_2014-3.pdf.
Plan International (2020), “Free to be online? A report on girls’ and young women’s experiences of online harassment”, available at https://plan-international.org/publications/freeto be online.
https://rm.coe.int/grevio-rec-no-on-digital-violence-against-women/1680a49147 page 23-28