7 in 10 girls in PH experience online harassment – study

MANILA, Philippines — Sixty-eight percent or nearly 7 in 10 girls and young women in the country have experienced online harassment, particularly on social media, according to a study by independent development and humanitarian organization Plan International.

Most of the girls said the harassment happens “frequently” (50 percent) or “very frequently” (33 percent).

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Eight out of 10 of Filipinos surveyed said they or other girls they know had received threats of sexual violence on social media.

What made it worse was that the majority of the harassment at 67 percent were done by people they know.

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In addition, girls and young women who identified themselves as having at least one intersecting characteristic—being from an ethnic minority, identifying as LGBTIQ+, or living with a disability—are more vulnerable to online violence.

“The high incidence of online violence against girls and young women is alarming. In this global pandemic and in an increasingly digital world, girls are more at risk than ever,” Gender specialist of Plan International Philippines Mona Mariano said.

“We must understand that it may also impact girls’ lives offline. Experiencing harassment or abuse online may take a huge toll on a girl’s confidence and well-being,” she added.

The results were based on a bigger study based on a survey and in-depth interviews of over 14,000 girls age 15 to 24 years old in 31 countries, including the Philippines.

The survey was conducted by research firms Kantar and Ipsos between April 1 and May 5. Participants were asked about their experiences of using social media applications Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, Snapchat, WhatsApp, WeChat, YouTube and Line.

Plan International’s 56-page report, titled “Free to be online? Girls’ and young women’s experiences of online harassment” was published on Sunday, in celebration of the International Day of the Girl.

The full research can be accessed at plan-international.org/freetobeonline.

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The majority of those in the survey believe the pandemic made being online “increasingly important: a lifeline for those often isolated at home and an important tool as young people struggle to keep up with their education and stay connected to the wider world.”

“Online violence is disempowering girls. They’re being shut out of a space that plays an important part in fulfilling their potential to thrive and become leaders,” Mariano said.

The study recommended a “whole-of-society” approach in addressing the issue by recognizing the harm caused by online violence against girls and young women, promoting digital citizenship education, reporting abuse, crafting and implementing inclusive policies and laws, and amplifying girls’ voices.

In April, President Rodirgo Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11313, or the Safe Spaces Act, imposing heftier penalties for gender-based sexual harassment.

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