Key actors discuss roadmap to address online violence against women in the Arab states


The growing reach of the Internet, the rapid spread of mobile information and communications technologies (ICTs) and the wide diffusion of social media have presented new opportunities and enabled various efforts to address violence against women and girls (VAWG). However, they are also being used as tools to inflict harm and to perpetrate VAWG.

A study released by UN Women Regional Office for the Arab States (ROAS) in 2020, identified online violence as the highest reported form of violence during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this context, UN Women ROAS, with the generous support of the Government of Japan, conducted new research to explore the prevalence, impact and consequences of online violence on women and girls in the Arab States, and the barriers women and girls survivors face to access services and reporting.

As a follow up to this research project, in March 2022, UN Women organized a regional consultation meeting with key stakeholders representing governments, Internet intermediaries, the media, civil society organizations (CSOs) and global tech companies, such as Meta, formerly known as Facebook, to present the findings of the study and to identify key priorities to address the issue in the Arab States.

Key findings on laws and services related to online violence in the region and global good practices inform solutions to end online violence were presented.  

“We are experiencing online violence and it is our reality as journalists and CSOs actors. I have experienced online violence as a journalist working on gender issues. I submitted a complaint to the concerned authorities, and the investigation was saved after a personal apology and a pledge not to be attacked by the aggressor again. However, many others of my journalists’ colleagues won’t even consider resorting to legal pathways out of fear of scandal and ruining their reputation,” said Safa Abdelhamid, CEO of Media Women Organization.

Dareen Salhieh, Chief Prosecutor of the Family Protection from Violence Prosecution at the Attorney General Office in Palestine added “protection for survivors of online violence shouldn’t only start when the violence turns to physical or domestic violence. Preventing mechanisms need to be in place and include protecting women from online violence across borders. Also, UN Women Palestine has worked with us in the Police Family Protection and Juvenile Unit (FPJU), and the Specialized Prosecution on Family Protection from Violence units and the Police Cyber Crimes Unit and the Cyber Crimes Prosecution on creating a guideline on efficient management of online VAW cases. The guideline made us realize the importance of empowering survivors of online violence to be able to report and follow the cases.” 

“There is an essential need to carry out digital safety trainings for all groups of women,” said Leila Mnekbi- Coordinator at Salamat, The Sec Dev Foundation from Tunisia.

At the consultation, participants were requested to discuss possible solutions and next steps, responsible actors, and estimated timelines for interventions towards ending online violence against women. Building on their answers, UN Women compiled a regional roadmap including legal frameworks; services and reporting mechanisms; and changing the social norms. The roadmap highlights main areas of intervention, suggested actions with their respective stakeholders, and a tentative timeline.

As part of this initiative, UN Women also developed an animated video conveying the story of Malak, an imaginary character who has experienced online violence. The video is inspired by true stories of women from the Arab States, gathered by UN Women for the study. It includes some of the study’s findings on the physical and mental consequences as well as impact, and perceptions of online violence on women in the region. The clip will be used to raise awareness of the situation amongst the general public. It also aims to engage the audience and policy makers in meaningful conversations around this increasingly significant phenomenon. The video can be seen below and on UN Women Arab States social media channels.