Women, Peace and Cybersecurity

A distressed person in front of their laptop. Photo: UN Women/Ploy Phutpheng
Photo: UN Women/Ploy Phutpheng

Technology and digital platforms are increasingly becoming integral parts of everyday lives and vital societal functions, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. These platforms are also increasingly used to spread misogyny, radical messaging and hate speech and have left states, organizations and individuals vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Technology and digital platforms have also affected conflict dynamics and approaches to peacebuilding. They can help analyse conflict trends and counter disinformation through peaceful and inclusive narratives. They are also useful tools for women to analyse and share their views on peace and security priorities with mediators and negotiators. It is therefore essential to ensure that there are platforms that provide gender-sensitive, safe and constructive digital engagement.

Women have a fundamental right to lead and participate in decision-making processes that affect their lives and communities. Further, women’s participation in peacebuilding processes has shown to lead to more stable and longer-lasting peace.

The digital world provides vast opportunities for increased civic engagement and action by women and girls. It also carries distinct gendered risks as women, girls and persons with diverse sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) face significant online harassment and threats, which often lead to self-censorship and exclusion from digital spaces. This hinders their equal participation and leadership in peacebuilding processes and other spheres of society.

However, cybersecurity legislation rarely includes gender considerations, making it difficult for governments and security actors to prosecute gendered cybercrimes, such as online sexual exploitation and abuse or human trafficking networks’ recruitment of women and girls.

In light of these challenges, UN Women and key partners are working together to promote gender responsive cybersecurity and ensure that the Women, Peace and Security Agenda is adequately reflected in cybersecurity areas of concern.

Promoting Women’s Peace and Security in the Digital World

In its 2020 Action Brief: Women, Peace & (Cyber) Security in Asia and the Pacific, UN Women urged governments and organizations to protect women’s and girls’ security in cyberspace, to support their participation in online peacebuilding and to ensure that legal frameworks and policies are gender-responsive.

To address cybersecurity threats through a Women, Peace and Security lens, UN Women envisions strengthening:

  • Women’s participation in policy development and decision-making processes relating to cybersecurity;
  • The prevention of online-facilitated violence and conflict risks;
  • The protection of women’s, girls’, and persons with SOGIESC’s  human rights and security, and;
  • The online and offline peacebuilding efforts of women human rights defenders and civil society organizations.

The full concept note outlining the importance of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda to cybersecurity can be found through the links below, along with a series of webinar presentations on a diverse set of cybersecurity challenges and their gendered implications.