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Online Harms and Online Violence against Women – Towards a (Law) Reform?


Online violence against women (OVAW) is widespread in online environments, especially on social media platforms. However, limited progress has been made at supranational and national levels in addressing this issue. In countries where steps have been taken to combat OVAW, they were typically limited to legislative developments addressing image-based sexual abuse. Whilst harms associated with image-based abuse have gained recognition in law, harms caused by text-based abuse have not been conceptualised in an equivalent manner nor given the same attention. More generally, gendered forms of abuse (and harms arising from them) have been grossly missing from the proposals to legally regulate online harms. This approach presents a conceptually narrow view of what OVAW is and severely restricts the availability of remedies available to the victims of OVAW – particularly its textual forms.

This presentation will explore the phenomenon of OVAW and critique the current legal landscape in relation to addressing this form of violence and online harms arising from it, advocating for a greater recognition of online harms within the legal system.

Speaker’s bio:

Dr. Olga Jurasz is a senior lecturer in law at the Open University Law School, specialising in international law, human rights, and legal responses to violence against women (including online violence). Her current research projects explore the issue of gender-based abuses in online environments and their legal regulation, with specific focus on online harms, gender-based hate, text-based abuse, and online misogyny. Her book Online misogyny as a hate crime: a challenge for (legal) regulation? (authored with Dr Kim Barker) was published by Routledge in 2019. Olga contributed to a number of consultations in her areas of expertise, including submissions to the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, the One Scotland Consultation on Amending Hate Crime Legislation in Scotland, the Australian Government’s Online Safety Charter Consultation, and Women & Equalities Committee.