Gender-based violence against women and girls remains a global threat to the public health of women and girls during emergencies. As the COVID-19 pandemic deepens the economic and social stress, coupled with restricted movement and social isolation measures, gender-based violence against women and girls is increasing exponentially. Prior studies suggest that one in three women worldwide have experienced some form of gender-based violence in their lifetime.
Likewise, during COVID-19, as more women and girls turn to the use of the internet, mobile phones, social media and other digital platforms for sharing information, these technologies have also become a weapon against them. Emerging data shows that women and girls are subjected to various forms of gender-based cyber (online) violence. This refers to online behaviour targeting women and girls, intended to intimidate, to coerce, or to cause fear, anxiety, humiliation and extreme emotional distress. A United Nations (UN) report indicates that cyber violence is just as damaging to women and girls as physical violence, and estimates that 73% of women have endured cyber violence and are 27 times more likely than men to be harassed online.
While efforts to tackle gender-based cyber violence during COVID-19 are at a larger scale globally, it remains an extensive and widely under-reported online human rights violation in African countries, including Malawi. Besides, most available literature is limited to developed countries, while similar studies are lacking in Malawi. Therefore, drawing on the Technology-Facilitated Gender-Based Violence Framework, the key objectives of this report are to document the form(s) of gender-based cyber violence behaviours that women and girls experience during COVID-19, and identify responses/strategies available to tackle this type of violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.