Calls for attention to cyber violence and its devastating effect on women and girls in South Africa

  • During this period of uncertainties caused by the spread of COVID-19 pandemic where families are staying home, Internet is more than ever the main channel of communication. However, the online world can be unsafe, especially for women and girls.

Despite the best efforts by a small group of misogynists to derail a meeting hosted by UN Women in partnership with the Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Ms. Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, a successful webinar on how the COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting women was virtually attended by approximately 150 participants representing government, international partners, civil society organizations, business executives, the media and others who wanted to pledge their support as private citizens.

Although the access to Information and Communications Technology is a core indicator for women’s empowerment, it is vital that the Internet is a safe place that allows all women and girls to fulfil their potential and live free from violence and fear. Even though cyber violence affects both men and women, studies have demonstrated that women are the worst affected by online harassment.

In this COVID-19 era, new types of violence are flourishing with perpetrators hiding behind anonymity. From abusive online comments and cyber-harassment, to the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes through social media and online imagery, the UN and the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities condemns in the strongest possible words these barbaric practices and calls for urgent action to combat online violence against women and girls.

The regrettable incident, of misogynists attempting to disrupt the meeting through streaming images of a sexual nature, reminded us that no one is spared, and we should all join our efforts to address this shadow pandemic of violence that is both online at work or school and offline behind secure walls in homes where women seek refuge.

‘’If we truly want to achieve substantive, irreversible gender equality by 2030 it is important that all of the drivers of gender inequality are addressed. I would see cyber violence as one of the new drivers of potential harmful gender inequalities. It is quite clear, however, that we will not realize this goal if we do not work in a coordinated manner,’’ said UN Women Executive Director Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

The UN, and the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities and partners in government and civil society will continue to ensure that they can convene and engage women during this COVID-19 period and have vowed not to be deterred by sinister intentions to derail their work to end impunity and violence against women and children.


 For media enquiries kindly contact National Information Officer for the United Nations in South Africa, Ms. Zeenat Abdool on or 0827788080

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UN entities involved in this initiative
UN Women
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women