It’s time to protect women’s rights online by insisting on consent for sharing images of a sexual nature and ensuring anonymity and compensation for victims of revenge porn.
It’s time to build a new template for dealing with online harassment so that victims do not depend on the goodwill of website operators for justice. And it’s time to teach our children that civil rights and human rights apply online as well as offline, and show them what healthy relationships look like.
“I am pleased to launch our “e-Quality” campaign today and take bold steps towards protecting women from violence online,” Women’s Equality Party leader Sophie Walker said on Monday.
“Today as WE lay out our policy plans, WE call on all political parties to set aside their differences and work with us to deliver digital legislation that works, so that the Internet is safe and fair for all.”
The Women’s Equality Party will be publicising the campaign via social media using the hashtag #CtrlAltDelete to show what is happening to women’s voices online as a result of Internet abuse. WE are also pushing for a better understanding of the particular online abuse to which BME, LGBT+ and disabled women are subjected.
Evidence submitted to the Women and Equalities Committee's inquiry last week on sexual violence and harassment in schools showed young girls are being pushed into sending sexual images online, then finding themselves in a spiral of bullying and digital blackmail. In the year since UK law criminalised ‘revenge porn’, or image-based sexual abuse, most offences did not result in a criminal charge and nothing was done to prevent website operators continuing to redistribute and profit from those images.
The Women’s Equality Party wants to refocus the revenge porn law purely on whether the victim gave consent for the images to be shared, rather than its current focus on whether the perpetrator intended to cause distress.
“WE want victims to have recourse to civil law in order to seek compensation from the perpetrator for the pain and economic harm they have endured and also to seek compensation from website operators who refuse to remove non-consensual pornography,” Walker said.
“WE believe revenge porn is one of the most concerning phenomena in the trend of online abuse against women. By tackling this head on, we can set a new template for dealing with broader online harassment and give victims recourse to justice,” Walker said. “Right now if you are harassed online, the response depends on what the website operator or host has decided is adequate.”
“WE will also be rolling out later this year a nationwide campaign, with the help and contribution of all of our members, to demand mandatory sex and relationships education in all schools in England and Wales, so that we can help our children navigate the reality of their lives online,” Walker added. “It is simply unacceptable that the government has ruled out something that is so essential to ending violence against women.”
The Women’s Equality Party is also calling for better monitoring and data on online abuse as UK figures are poor. What data there are suggests children as young as 11 are victimised by revenge pornography and that 75-90% of revenge porn victims are women.
Further data shows that:
- 1 out of 10 of ex-partners has threatened to post naked images of their exes online. 60% of them carry out the threat
- 93% of victims suffer significant emotional distress
- 49% of victims are harassed or stalked online by someone who saw the material
- At least 3,000 pornography websites around the world feature a revenge porn “genre”.
Figures released last month from 31 police forces after an FOI request by the BBC revealed that most offences of revenge porn do not result in a criminal charge. Revenge porn – or disclosing private sexual photographs and films without the consent of the individual and with intent to cause distress – became a criminal offence in England and Wales in April 2015.
That same data showed there were 1,160 reports of revenge porn between April and December 2015, made to 31 police forces in England and Wales. Three victims were 11 years old. In 11 percent of cases the suspect was charged. 7 percent received a caution and 5 percent a community resolution. However 61 percent of cases resulted in no action being taken, as a result of lack of evidence or the victim withdrawing support.