Nearly half of female internet users in the Arab States fear online harassment, says new UN Women report

Over 1 in 5 women who experienced online violence in the region deleted or deactivated their social media accounts.

Date: Wednesday, November 24, 2021

[Press release]

On occasion of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence (25 November to 10 December 2021) under the global theme, “Orange the World: End Violence against Women Now!", UN Women Regional Office for the Arab States launched the report “Violence against women in the online space: insights from a multi-country study in the Arab States.”

Using an innovative web-based data collection technology, the study surveyed some 11,500 male and female Internet users over the age of 18 in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia, and Yemen to explore the prevalence, impact, and consequences of online violence on women in the Arab States, and the barriers women and girls’ survivors face to access services and reporting. In addition, the project conducted qualitative research on the experiences of online violence through the lens of civil society organizations, women activists, and service providers and a mapping of existing laws and services related to online, and ICT facilitated violence against women.

According to the report, 49% of women internet users in the Arab States reported feeling unsafe from online harassment. However, 36% of women who have experienced online violence were told to ignore it, 23% were blamed for the incident, and 21% were told to delete their social media.

Over 1 in 3 men aged 18-24 surveyed in the region admitted they had perpetrated some kind of online violence against women. When giving their reasons for committing online violence against women, the number one reason given by perpetrators was “because it is their right” (26%). A further 23% said that they perpetrated online violence “because it was fun”.

The study revealed that the most common form of online violence affecting women in the region is receiving “unwanted images or symbols with sexual content” (43%); followed by “annoying phone calls, inappropriate or unwelcome communications” (38%) and “receiving insulting and/or hateful messages” (35%). 22% of women who experienced online violence experienced “direct sexual blackmail.” The largest share of women who experienced online violence, reported experiencing it on Facebook (43%) followed by Instagram (16%) and WhatsApp (11%). Out of the women who experienced violence last year, 44% reported that the incident moved offline.

The report also highlights the considerable efforts that have been made to address the issue in the region. For instance, countries including Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia have adapted their Penal Codes, and sexual harassment and domestic violence legislation to outlaw online violence against women. Furthermore, 15 of 22 Arab States have introduced helplines for victims of online violence.

Read the summary of the report here.

Media contacts:

  • Diego De La Rosa - diego.delarosa(at)unwomen.org
  • Nourhan El-Nagdy - nourhan.elnagdy(at)unwomen.org