Big Data

Big data shows steep rise in domestic abuse searches in pandemic

ONLINE searches relating to domestic abuse have risen significantly in the Philippines between October 2019 and September 2020, according to the United Nations Women (UN Women).

In the report titled, “Covid-19 and Violence against Women: The Evidence behind the Talk,” UN Women partnered with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and analytics company Quilt.AI and determined that these online searches surged 63 percent in the Philippines.

These online searches included specific references to “men hitting women,” “spouse abuse,” “boyfriend hit me,” and “controlling men” or “controlling husband.”

“The so-called ‘shadow pandemic’ of violence against women and girls under lockdown is widely recognized by now, and this analysis proves what we have long anticipated,” said Mohammad Naciri, Asia-Pacific Regional Director of UN Women.

“This analysis of big data now gives us a better picture of exactly what different women need most urgently, and how all support agencies—government, private-sector, international organizations and civil society—can improve the ways they reach out to these groups,” Naciri added.

In the Philippines, the study noted that the online volume between April and September 2020 grew for search queries such as “how to stop domestic violence,” “being raped,” “sexual assault,” “Owwa [Overseas Workers Welfare Administration] helpline,” “whipped with belt,” and “emotionally abusive husband.”

The data showed searches per 100,000 people for violence against women and girls (VAWG) in the Philippines reached 1,048, the third highest among the countries included in the study.

The highest was in Singapore at 6,299 and Malaysia at 2,396. India was a far fourth at 612 online searches per 100,000 people; Nepal, 463; Indonesia, 232; Bangladesh, 178; and Thailand, 175.

Help-seeking searches related to VAWG increased 10 percent in the Philippines since Covid-19. The average search volume for help-seeking keywords reached 1,735 since the pandemic.

Meanwhile, data also showed the number of Tweets with misogynistic language between October 2019 and October 2020 in the Philippines increased 953 percent. The highest was in Thailand at 22,384 percent.

However, the percentage change in Tweets with references to support for victims of violence, between October 2019 and October 2020, declined in the Philippines.

The data showed these tweets contracted by 4 percent, the third lowest. At the bottom of the rung were Singapore, which recorded a contraction of 40 percent, and India at 55 percent.

The report also noted that social-media posts that referenced misogyny, victim blaming and misconceptions reached 26 percent in the Philippines.

Social-media posts referencing justice, law and regulations accounted for 38 percent in the Philippines, while NGO support and community support were at 22 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

The data showed social-media posts that referenced religion, tradition and caste, as well as mainstream and social-media roles in VAW, increased.

“The study clearly shows the crucial role digital platforms can play in helping address violence against women,” said Bjorn Andersson, UNFPA Asia-Pacific regional director.

“It also underscores the urgent need to provide digital literacy skills to disadvantaged populations, to ensure access to potentially lifesaving online tools. Supporting women and girls impacted by the digital divide must be a priority for governments and partners as countries build back better in a post-pandemic world,” he explained.

The report focused on eight countries: Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

The analysis spanned periods from September 2019 to November 2020 and covered about 20.5 million unique searches and 3,500 keywords on violence against women.

The report also obtained data from 2,000 posts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and ShareChat and the Facebook pages and social-media posts of 32 service organizations.

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