How gender inequality online “gives birth” to gender-based violence



We are reposting the interview we gave to the “Observer of Thrace” in Greek.

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The lawyer and co-founder of the “DATAWO” organisation, Anthi Argyriou, talks to the “Observer of Thrace” about the protection of women’s/fimininities’ rights in the digital age. A very important and real issue, which, however, contrary to the rapid development of technology, is not sufficiently highlighted in the public debate, was discussed, among other things, at the event held in Komotini on Tuesday 31 October, entitled “Safe at Work: Discussing on sexual harassment at work”, by ActionAid Hellas in collaboration with the Department of Social Policy, the organisation “DATAWO” and the organisation “Women On Top” on the topic of preventing and combating sexual harassment in the workplace.

The reason for the issue of image-based sexual abuse, which is a “scourge” of the time, among other things due to the rapid development of technology, which “carries” with it all the stereotypes of the patriarchal society in which we live and unfortunately is a field of behavior and practices of gender0based violence.

Ms. Anthi Argyriou, lawyer in Thessaloniki and co-founder of the Non-Profit Organisation “DATAWO” which was founded in 2021 with the aim of raising awareness in society for the protection of the rights of women and femininity in the digital age participated in the discussion.

How? As Ms. Argyriou explained, first and foremost through informing about the issues of gender inequality that arise in the digital sphere but also around the need for gender equality also within it. Starting from the “basics”, i.e. the explanation of what online gender inequality entails, how one can recognise it and above all what one can do to deal with it. In order to achieve this goal, “DATAWO” mainly uses technology, with its website as the main tool, where there is also scientific -and not only- articles, book recommendations, documentaries and films, which promote the principles of gender equality and, of course, the organisation actions, online and in-person, in collaborations with other collectivities and professionals, as well as visitings in school and other academic environments, such as the example of the Democritus University of Thrace, in which we met on Tuesday 31 October at 3:30 p.m. in the Amphitheater of Law School, focusing on sexual abuse through imagery.

What is image-based sexual abuse?

A term that, as Ms. Argyriou explained, is widely known as “revenge pornography” and refers to a person who has, either with or without the other person’s consent, sexual content such as photos, videos, etc. . that include-contain private moments of the other person, and without consent decides to publish them online or without using the Internet.

The thematic topic of the event focused on sexual harassment in the workplace, which now and with the advent of teleworking in our lives, can also happen digitally. After all, as she explained, “we are the same people who make up society, we use technology and therefore we operate in the same way, finding fertile ground to harm people around us in this way. And even in terms of sexual abuse, using technology, a computer, etc., because of the distance for the perpetrator, as we observe, it’s easier.”

And if in Greece today there are no official figures and records on the “size” of the problem of sexual abuse via the Internet, there are cases that are reported or even reach the courts that give a worrying indication of the escalation of the phenomenon.

The lack of information of the professionals for the management of digitally-facilitaed gender-based violence survivors

As a lawyer, Ms. Argyriou, in relation to the legal framework, explained that when an incident takes place, typically the survivor can turn to the police station of their place of residence or the prosecutor’s office, however, as she conveyed, the phenomenon is observed professionals, such as police officers to lack information, around this issue, in order to approach the survivor in the way that is needed. Even more so when it comes to purely digitally-faciliated gender-based violence offences. In this “incomplete” context, which of course highlights the need for proper information of professionals and their awareness, the mentality of Greek society is added, which, as she pointed out, remains unequal in terms of the management of these issues , but also the legal framework of the country which until now did not “touch” cases of abuse through images at all and therefore it was not easy for a survivor to protect themselvesin such a case.

After all, as she explained, until recently image-based sexual abuse was treated by the Greek legal framework as a violation of personal data, at the level of a misdemeanor, with extremely low penalties, which left fertile ground for “impunity” to prevail.

The establishment of revenge pornography as an offense with a felony form now comes to change the facts, to a significant, but not absolute, degree, as she emphasises, as first and foremost to deal with the phenomenon, the mentality must change.

Sticking to the legal framework and asked about what could be changed to achieve the protection of the survivors, Ms. Argyriou proposed to amend the said provision, so that it would be as effective as possible, with specific proposals for which she “DATAWO” is working to create a study group with the participation of many organisations, which will focus on the part of the modifications of the said provision. At the state level, however, she prioritised informing professionals. “The state, i.e. the authorities to whom I will turn in an emergency situation are not ready. I’m not saying they’re never ready, but there have been relative signs that they’re not ready to “embrace” the survivor and deal with it in that moment in a way that makes it feel comfortable so that it’s more for them easy to actually denounce the act” she said, emphasising the need for training and awareness actions for professionals, who are in the field and are the first to face all these events.

Complaints from famous people were empowering

Asked if the “stigma” or “fear” that entails a complaint about the victim has been eliminated at the level of society, Ms. Argyriou explained that since metoo, steps have been taken in terms of reporting incidents. “The fact that famous people both in Greece and abroad spoke openly about their own trauma and their own experience was very empowering for everyone. So I think that this critical phase brought the common understanding of all this a step forward”, she said characteristically, stressing however that there is still a way to go.

Focusing on the workplace, she emphasised that the fear of losing one’s job dominates, a topic that was discussed during the event at the Democritus University of Thrace, as well as more broadly gender-based violence on the internet and the digital environment, how it is born from the gender inequality that exists and thrives in the digital environment, and how we ultimately end up with sexual harassment in the workplace that takes place in many ways.

Information about equality from school

Summing up by being asked about other countries abroad and the possible existence of “better” countries in terms of gender equality and the dismantling of gender inequalities, she explained that Greek society is “special” expressing doubts as to whether a ” model’ of another country to be successfully applied here. “We will have to find our own way”, she emphasised to conclude by underlining that “everything starts with education and information, already from a person’s school years. The school itself should take care to promote the principles of equality, take care to make people, so that tomorrow we don’t have to discuss why a professional didn’t have the proper training to deal with a survivor of gender-based violence. It should be somewhat more self-explanatory to deal with it correctly, their association with a person who has experienced such situations”.

Info: The event was held as part of the Safe at Work project which aims to combat sexual harassment at work and strengthen the protective framework with empirical data and policy proposals, expecting to reach over 200,000 people nationwide. The Safe at Work project is implemented within the framework of the Active citizens fund program, with ActionAid Hellas as the implementing body and the Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences Research Committee, Women On Top, the Human Resources Management Association of Greece and DATAWO as partners. The Active citizens fund program, in the amount of €15 million, is financed by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway and is part of the financial mechanism of the European Economic Area (EEA) for the period 2014 – 2021, known as EEA Grants. The program aims to strengthen and strengthen the sustainability of civil society and to highlight its role in promoting democratic processes, strengthening citizens’ participation in society and defending human rights. The management of the grant of the Active citizens fund program for Greece has been jointly undertaken by the Bodosaki Foundation and SolidarityNow. Read more here:

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