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Remarks by Caren Marks, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, at the “Building safe and empowering digital spaces for women and girls” side event

11.03.2019 - Speech

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Ladies and Gentlemen, esteemed guests,

When we speak about social media and women’s rights, what we often discuss is:

How can we use Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to make people aware of sexism and sexual violence?

From #metoo, #Aufschrei in Germany to #AbolishGuardianship in Saudi Arabia – social media plays a key role in the debate on sexism and sexual violence.

However, one aspect frequently receives too little attention:

Social media itself is ever more frequently also an arena for violence.

Women and girls are increasingly subject to anonymous assaults in the digital public space.

And a growing number of women and girls experience digital violence in their personal environment:

through partners or former partners who use digital media to threaten, stalk, or to expose and coerce them by publishing intimate photos.

Digital violence increasingly occurs in connection with other forms of violence exercised by partners and ex-partners – very often also in separation situations – as an additional method of threatening women.

2. “Active against digital violence”

This is one reason why we are seeing an increase in the demand for counselling on digital forms of violence.

Therefore, the Federal Ministry for Women’s Affairs has been funding the project “Active against digital violence” conducted by the Federal Association of Rape Crisis Centres and Women’s Counselling Centres since 2017.

The aim is to sensitise counsellors at the specialised counselling centres towards:

-              What types of digital violence exist?

-              What are cyberstalking, digital sexualised violence and hate speech?

-              How does a spy app work?

-              What technical options are available to women who wish to protect themselves from digital violence?

-              What possibilities exist for taking legal action against digital violence?

It is important that we create awareness on digital violence, because a great deal of what happens on the Internet still takes place under the radar.

3. Conclusion

Digital violence and digital assaults are conducted differently.

However, they are also a continuation of violence against women and girls in the real world.

These assaults also take place in the digital space,

not detached from existing relationships of violence and power.

Combating digital violence is therefore one aspect of preventing and combating all forms of violence against women and girls.

Whether online or in real life: women who experience violence often feel powerless. It is incredibly difficult and takes a great deal of strength to extricate oneself from a violent situation.

This is why women must be able to find support:

at women's counselling centres,

through telephone helplines,

in online counselling fora,

refuge centres for women and

sheltered apartments.

They must be able to find support among women and men who take up their cause and fight on their behalf. That is why we are all here today.  

Thank you!

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