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"They Don't Leave Us Alone Anywhere We Go": Gender and Digital Abuse in South Asia

Nithya Sambasivan
Amna Batool
Nova Ahmed
Tara Matthews
Sane Gaytán
David Nemer
Elizabeth Churchill
(2019) (to appear)


South Asia faces one of the largest gender gaps online globally, and online safety is one of the main barriers to gender-equitable Internet access [GSMA, 2015]. To better understand the gendered risks and coping practices online in South Asia, we present a qualitative study of the online abuse experiences and coping practices of 199 people who identified as women and 6 NGO staff from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, using a feminist analysis. We found that a majority of our participants regularly contended with online abuse, experiencing three major abuse types: cyberstalking, impersonation, and personal content leakages. Consequences of abuse included emotional harm, reputation damage, and physical and sexual violence. Participants coped through informal channels rather than through technological protections or law enforcement. Altogether, our findings point to opportunities for designs, policies, and algorithms to improve women's safety online in South Asia.