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Human rights law and gender-based violence in online spaces? Piercing the private sphere of cyberspace

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Maria Sjöholm

Research subject

he project provides an analysis of certain legal aspects of gender-based harms against women on the internet. This includes stalking, sexual harassment, non-consensual distribution of intimate images and virtual sexual assault. The issue of whether “sexist hate speech” is encompassed by the prohibition on sex discrimination is discussed. The framework of the analysis is international human rights law. States’ positive obligations to prevent violence against women is discussed, in addition to issues of states’ jurisdiction in cyberspace. The extent of state obligations to criminalize these forms of harm is discussed, both in relation to individual perpetrators, but also with regard to the regulation of e.g. internet service providers and website operators. The conflict between the freedom of expression and the right to privacy and the prohibition on sex discrimination is explored.


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