Gender-Based Abuse Online: An Assessment of Law, Policy and Reform in England and Wales

Barker, Kim and Jurasz, Olga (2021). Gender-Based Abuse Online: An Assessment of Law, Policy and Reform in England and Wales. In: Powell, Anastasia; Flynn, Asher and Sugiura, Lisa eds. The Palgrave Handbook of Gendered Violence and Technology. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 529–544.



The current United Kingdom Government approach falls short of addressing online harms in a comprehensive and holistic manner. In particular, it specifically excludes online harms suffered by women and girls. This is baffling because such harms often arise as a result of online abuse taking the form of sexualised and/or misogynistic and/or hateful acts. The perceived gender neutrality of the reform proposals is a contradiction in terms—rather than being gender-neutral in its content and proposed applicability to harms, it actually excludes the online experiences of women and girls. While the proposals for law reform addressing online harms and online abuse are most welcome, the current efforts still represent an incredibly fragmented and selective approach. Above all else, the gender aspect is missing in the ongoing debates surrounding online harm reforms. Advancing the debates and including gender perspectives in the online harms framework could potentially mitigate some of the consequences arising from gender-based abuse online. By analysing law and policy in England and Wales, this chapter argues that the everyday and widespread nature of online abuses directed at women and girls has become common and is rarely acted upon. In order to be effective, we contend that online harms law reform must engage with gender-based abuses online.

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