Online Gender-Based Violence in the Indo-Pacific

And Its Impact On The Civic Freedoms of Women Human Rights Defenders


The meaningful participation of women in online spaces has been hindered by online gender-based violence (OGBV). International law recognizes the link between OGBV and offline gender-based violence. Past research has shown that women human rights defenders (WHRDs) who challenge patriarchal norms and structures are particularly vulnerable to OGBV.

This report, supported by ICNL, seeks to understand the impact of OGBV on WHRDs in Indo-Pacific region, namely Cambodia, India, Malaysia, Nepal, and Thailand. It first examines the international legal framework governing women’s exercise of civic freedoms and OGBV and then focuses on adults who self-identify as WHRDs and live in or have been forced to relocate from the targeted countries because of their work.

Please read the full report here.

Key Findings from the Report
  • Online gendered-based violence can be grouped into broad categories: mass trolling; online sexual harassment; manipulation or alteration of information and photos with an intent to malign; doxing; identity theft; direct threats against WHRDs and their families; gendered hate speech and sexist and misogynist attacks; surveillance, monitoring, and cyberstalking; coordinated online targeting; and targeting beyond social media.
  • The most common forms of OGBV experienced by the WHRDs in this study were mass trolling, gendered hate speech, and online sexual harassment.
  • Psychological harm and self-censorship were the effects of OGBV most often experienced by WHRDs.
  • The psychological harm experienced by WHRDs included depression, anxiety, social anxiety, stress, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and paranoia; self-blame, self-doubt, self-shame, and humiliation; fear of physical harm, feelings of being watched; feeling unsafe, uncomfortable, and insecure; and feeling worried.
  • The self-censorship experienced by WHRDs included reduced engagement on social media, loss of voice, engagement in a less controversial area of activism, and increased risk evaluation before posting on social media.
  • The two main avenues of recourse pursued by WHRDs were reporting abuse to a social media platform and taking legal action.
  • The strategies adopted by WHRDs after experiencing OGBV included changing their methods of engaging on social media; changing social media settings and blocking accounts; digital detoxing; documenting abuse and warnings to other WHRDs; requesting help from friends, family members, and the community; and practicing self-prioritization and self-care.
  • WHRD’s recommendations for improved responses to OGBV include more accessible, survivor-centric reporting mechanisms; greater accountability from social media companies and platform owners; more context-specific laws and policies; and increased and more accessible training in digital literacy and security.
online gender based violence

Learn more about the issue and explore ICNL’s work on Women and Civic Space here.