During the 16 Days of Activism, Zonta Clubs in Belgium united their voices to say NO to violence against women, especially cyber violence. The clubs kicked off the Zonta Says NO to Violence Against Women campaign with a press conference and panel discussion at Brussels City Hall.
The club addressed the prevalence of gender-based cyber violence at the press conference. Statistically, 2 in 10 adults using social media have experienced some form of cyber harassment, but the figure is twice as high amongst adolescents. They urged that special attention be paid in the country to not only support and guide victims but also prevent harassment from happening.
Cyber violence is an increasing problem and is too often gender-based. It can take many forms, ranging from harassment and revenge porn to threats of rape, sexual assault or even murder. Perpetrators can be partners, ex-partners, colleagues, schoolmates or, as is often the case, anonymous individuals.
Cyber violence disproportionately affects women and girls, causing severe psychological harm and deterring them from digital participation. Some are particularly exposed, such as young girls, women’s rights defenders, journalists, public figures and politicians. Online abuse and harassment limit women and girls from expressing themselves freely and without fear. They are being silenced and isolated.
Joining Area Director Régine Claeys to speak at the event were UN Women-Brussels Office Director Dagmar Schumacher, Eleanora Esposito, a gender-based violence researcher at the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), Professor Lisebet Stevens and Erika Frans, a senior expert on sexual health. Each speaker provided insights on how to work together to end gender-based violence and support victims.
At the end of the press conference, the clubs unveiled a graffiti artwork commissioned by EIGE on the theme of digital sexual violence for the City of Brussels by Belgian street artist CAZn. After the campaign, city hall plans to find a permanent place for the artwork to continue inspiring, stimulating, and guiding Brussels youth in their personal and professional development – a message of hope.
Click here to watch a video the clubs made for the event.