25 November, 20141 Comment 20 Reports
Hate speech targetting women is often neglected, for is is so much present in every day life and it can be so subtle that people do not even recognise it. This is why it is even more dangerous. Such hate speech is proliferating, notably on the Internet, with daily calls for violence against women and threats of murder, sexual assault or rape. Initiated by the United Nateions from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign is a time to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world. The No Hate Speech Movement joins this global action and invites YOU to report hate speech targetting women on the Hate Speech Watch. The Movement will announce these reports on social media and will call for united counter actions online.
This year, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women invites you to “Orange YOUR Neighbourhood.”Take the UNiTE campaign to local streets, shops and businesses, and organize “Orange Events” in your own neighbourhoods between 25 November and 10 December 2014. There are several cases every day, but still many politicians, institutions deny its danger and do not do their best to prevent violence against women be it verbal or physical. One of the most known case is that of Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl who, after surviving an assassination attempt prompted by her stance for women’s rights, had to withstand a hostile campaign on the Internet. Malala is now a symbol of women’s struggle worldwide, including in Europe. Recent cases, in fact, remind us that if we believe that hate speech against women is not a European problem, we are profoundly wrong. In Italy, the speaker of Parliament, Laura Boldrini, has been the target of repeated hate speech since she was sworn in, including recently when the leader of the 5-Star Movement, a political group which obtained a quarter of the votes in last year’s legislative elections, published a clearly misogynistic post on his blog, which was picked up by his social media account and those used by his MPs, and which generated violent, insulting comments against her.Numerous are also the cases of female journalists all over Europe who have been the target of explicit gender-based threats. Many of them felt obliged to leave the blogosphere.Provisions against hate speech in international human rights law usually cover grounds related to racial, ethnic and religious hatred, as is the case in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. At European level, hate speech, as defined by the Council of Europe, covers all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify racial hatred, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or other forms of hatred based on intolerance, including intolerance expressed by aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism, discrimination and hostility against minorities, migrants and people of immigrant origin. Although the definition refers to a number of groups which are frequently seen to be the targets of hate speech, the list should be read as open-ended, and not limiting the possible targets to these groups alone. This was made clear in 2011 when the Council of Europe opened for signature the Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (the Istanbul Convention) which binds state parties to prohibit sexual harassment, including “verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature unwanted by the victim.” The Convention also highlights the participation of the private sector and the media and establishes the obligation of state parties to find ways to encourage private companies and the media to set themselves self-regulatory standards for example to limit any form of verbal or physical abuse of women. This would include hate speech on the grounds of gender, as well as any incitement to violence against women. The obligation on the government here is to set incentives or otherwise encourage the private sector actors to do whatever they can to make sure none of their products, services or advertisements exhibit misogynistic tendencies or gives them a platform to develop.Three years after its opening for signature, the Istanbul Convention has been ratified by only eight member states (Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, Montenegro, Portugal, Serbia and Turkey), an insufficient number to have it enter into force.An additional standard are guidelines adopted in 2013 by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on gender equality and media. They specifically recommend that “unless already in place, member states should adopt an appropriate legal framework intended to ensure that there is respect for the principle of human dignity and the prohibition of all discrimination on grounds of sex, as well as of incitement to hatred and to any form of gender-based violence within the media.”