Gender abuse is a conversation that we have been having for the longest time possible and this often culminates into gender based violence.

Gender violence, although the focus is mostly on violence directed towards women, can also be directed towards men, and it is expressed in three recognised ways. These are domestic, community and institutional. The domestic expression includes marital rape, sexual abuse of female children and among other types dowry based violence. Whereas community is seen in cases such as rape, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation, prostitution and human trafficking. Lastly institutional gender violence includes physical, sexual, and psychological violence condoned by the state.[1]

However, there is an emerged new form of Gender based abuse and this is through the internet. Whereby recent cases have revealed that active human rights defenders who happen to be women are under personal attack for simply being women.

The Internet can be described as a global network that gives information as well as connect persons all over the world. It is also a space where people can freely express themselves and engage with persons with similar interests across the globe. However it is also a tool that can and has been used to spread hate, racisms, sexism and overall abuse of all sorts.

For women and girls, the internet can be very empowering but it can also be a dangerous space. Threats, intimidation and extortion attempts are just some of the ways that abuse online takes place. The abuse comes from what the victim has said or the group that they belong to, the cause they are advocating for or simply because they are female.[2]

Seyi Akwowo is a UK based councillor and human rights defender, who was subject to hateful sexist remarks on the internet following a leaked video of her addressing the Youth European Parliament on matters to do with refugees. The remarks were not only racists and condescending but involved a lot of hatred towards her femininity including references towards female genital mutilation.  Seyi in her response included,” That it is about how we can get women who want to enter the public life to be more resilient”.

Nighat Dad, Executive Director of the Digital Rights foundation Pakistan, noted that attacks on women human rights defenders is often personal, whereby women are criticised for what they wear and attaked with calls for them to be assaulted or raped as a means of silencing what they have to say.

It has been noted, that in many instances this internet gender based abuses have led to physical harm on the victims. Case in point, is India, Ms Gauri Lankesh a journalist who published criticism of Hindu extremism was killed last year following widespread calls online for violence against her. [3]

It is important to recognise that the internet is a powerful tool that can be used positively. However without necessary caution in can be subject to misuse and thus act as a channel to fuel hatred against women and other vulnerable groups.  Further to this, the aforementioned highlights the vast abuse and gender based violence women of every class and race continue to face on a daily basis. Lastly, in order for there to be actual change, there needs to be realisation of this growing trend of gender abuse and encouraged universal responsibility to ensure that such online abuse is put to an immediate halt.


[1] United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

[2] UN Human Rights Council, “Digital Misogyny”.

[3] UN Human Rights Council, “ Digital Misogyny”.