Research Report_Not Just a Trend: Assessing the Types, Spread, and the Impact of Online Gender Based Violence in Uganda

The internet is one of the most powerful platforms for sharing ideas, and building community though unfortunately it has been used often to silence and censors women and girls due to online gender-based violence which creates the fear to speak out. The internet has turned out to be a dangerous place for many women, as social media has become a new way to carry out old patterns of oppression and violence against women as the majority continue to be the target of online harassment, quickly descended sexualized hate speech or threats. This new threat is increasingly being promoted and normalized due to the sophistication of digital technologies that permits anonymity of perpetrators and also because of the weak existing legal and regulatory frameworks available for tackling the violence which is creating a hostile online environment where the rights and safety of women are never guaranteed.


Policy Brief_Not Just a Trend: Assessing the Types, Spread, and the Impact of Online Gender Based Violence in Uganda

Women of Uganda Network in partnership with Makerere University School of Women and Gender Studies conducted nationwide research to study the types, spread, impact, and methods of dealing with online gender-based violence.

The research team conducted desk reviews, Key Informants Interviews, and Focus Group Discussions to collect data. Quantitative data was analyzed in the spreadsheet while the Qualitative Data was analyzed based on emerging themes and sub-themes in line with evaluation objectives.

The study noted various types of OGBV and this included sharing of non-consensual intimate images (“revenge pornography”) represented by 27% followed by online sexual harassment represented by 22% and cyberstalking represented by 13% on digital platforms. Impersonation is represented by 11% of the respondents while hacking is 7%. Additionally, 4% of the respondents identified doxing as the most committed and surveillance was at 2%. The digital spaces where OGBV is widespread are WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, video conferencing platforms, dating sites, and YouTube. Online-gender-based violence has caused a lot of psychological and economic harm to the victims, the majority of whom are women. Blocking the perpetrator was identified as the major reaction by survivors to online gender-based violence.

The government ministries and agencies should strengthen the implementation and monitoring of existing international legal frameworks and national laws. Social media companies should develop strategies for rapid prevention and reporting of OGBV in a timely manner to avoid negative consequences.


Promoting Online Safety for Female Journalists in Uganda

Globally, there is a surge in the rates of gendered online violence and harassment against female journalists and media workers that arise in the course or as a result of their work. In many ways, it has become the new epicentre of threats against journalists on the frontline. In a 2020 global survey by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ), 73 percent of 1,210 women journalists interviewed noted they had experienced online violence in the course of their work, 20 percent noted they had been attacked offline in connection with online violence targeting them, 25 percent had received threats of physical violence, 18 percent had been threatened with sexual violence while 16 percent of women journalists narrated that online harassment and abuse was “much worse” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The situation is not any better in Africa. In a recent study on women journalists’ digital security in Kenya, for example, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa found that 75 percent of the journalists interviewed had experienced online harassment in the course of their work. This report further noted that 36 percent of the respondents preferred to ignore the attacks and took no action against the abusive posts or the perpetrators. The attacks are having a significant impact on the work of female journalists and media workers. The harassment is leading to women withdrawing from the use of the Internet and in many cases, they have stopped working for some time or stopped engaging in public spaces.

In Uganda, gendered online violence and harassment is on the rise. Female journalists and media workers who embrace digital tools face various forms of online attacks across a variety of online platforms such as social media, websites, search engines, messaging applications, blogs, chat rooms of virtual calls, and comment sections of media and newspapers.4 The media disruptions in the digital age have made it easier for members of the public to directly contact journalists compared to the past.



Digital Security and Safety of women online has become extremely important, now more than ever. With the rapid adoption of technology and digital platforms, the internet has become a vital resource for all groups of people regardless of age, sex, gender, race, or one’s identity.

Whereas the adoption of the use of the internet and digital technology has sky-rocketed, there has been an increase in threats and challenges related to using these digital platforms. These threats and challenges do not segregate on which group of people are a target. However, women appear to be more of a target when it comes to online threats and this is simply because they are women. According to WOUGNET’s recent study, women face more online threats compared to men while using these online platforms.

In this day and age, Online gender-based Violence (OGBV) has become a force to reckon with and needs to be taken seriously if women's safety online is to be guaranteed. This Digital Security manual is a step in the right direction in ensuring that women's safety online is something they can give priority to and put in place the necessary measures needed to ensure they achieve it. The manual aims at providing women with basic digital security knowledge and skills that they can implement to take ownership of their online safety and security.


Promoting Smart Policy Options in Closing the Gender Digital Divide in Uganda

This policy brief is primarily a result of the key highlights from the CSO position paper and the face-to-face strategic meetings held with policymakers and key stakeholders, on how to bridge the gender digital gap in Uganda. It highlights what the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) and the Centre for Multilateral Affairs (CfMA) have been doing over the two years in closing the gender digital divide in Uganda. The brief further highlights the state of the gender digital divide in Uganda, and recommendations to Civil Society Organisations, Ministries, Departments and Agencies, the private sector, and other stakeholders in closing the gender digital divide in Uganda.