Twitter launches tool to prevent gender-based violence in Asia Pacific

The social media platform plans to expand this service to other countries across the region in the coming weeks and months


TWITTER in partnership with United Nations (UN) Women Asia Pacific (APAC) and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) providing critical emergency care, support and counselling has launched a dedicated gender-based violence (GBV) search prompt for hotlines and support in various local languages.

The service is now available in Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam.

The social media platform said in a statement that it plans to expand this service to other countries across the region in the coming weeks and months.

Twitter said when users in the aforementioned nations search for keywords associated with GBV on its platform, they will be directed to the hotlines of the local organisations where they can seek help, alongside a list of NGOs that can provide support.

All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) programmes and operations manager Nisha Sabanayagam said the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry’s hotlines have reported a 57% increase in calls.

“There is a great need to put women and girls at the centre of all policies in order to ensure their access to funds, support and most importantly channels to address domestic violence, sexual harassment and other forms of GBV and inequality.

“While the pandemic affects everyone, women and girls are more vulnerable to violence and abuse, including economic factors that disproportionately affect women such as period poverty and wage inequality,” she said.

AWAM alongside Women’s Aid Organisation are among the Malaysian-based organisations which have partnered with Twitter.

The increase in local domestic violence rates has been reported since March 31. This also began further discourse on the mental health of individuals throughout the Movement Control Order (MCO).

The collaboration was initiated after UN secretary general Antonio Guterres reportedly called out on the horrifying surge in GBV as countries faced lockdowns to cope with the Covid-19 outbreak, leading to more vulnerable individuals staying at home with abusers.

According to the latest report by UN Women, 243 million women and girls aged between 15 and 49 universally have been subjected to sexual or physical violence perpetrated by an intimate partner in the past year, which has further intensified in emerging data displaying information during the Covid-19 outbreak.

UN Women APAC regional manager Melissa Alvarado said violence against women and girls across APAC is pervasive but at the same time widely under reported.

“Globally, one in three women experience violence at least once in their lifetime. In fact, in many countries in our region, the number is even greater, with as many as two out of three women in some countries reporting experiences of violence,” she said.

Alvarado added that less than four in 10 women experiencing such violence report these crimes or seek help of any sort.

“As lockdowns and stay-at-home orders are getting prolonged by countries around the world to contain the spread of Covid-19, women with violent partners increasingly find themselves isolated from the people and resources that can help them.

“At UN Women, we hear that keeping services open has been hard in many countries. We are pleased to team up with Twitter to help connect women to local services currently available in their countries if they are experiencing violence or abuse,” she said.

National data from India, for example, indicates that GBV has increased over two-folds in at least four states in the north, while reported cases from an NGO in Indonesia recorded a tripling.

Similar trends have been seen in Singapore and South Korea as well.