Violence against women (VAW) that is mediated by technology is increasingly becoming part of women’s experience of violence and their online interactions. In the same way we face risks offline, in the streets and in our homes, women and girls can face specific dangers and risks on the internet such as online harassment, cyberstalking, privacy invasions with the threat of blackmail, viral ‘rape videos’ and for young women in particular, the distribution of ‘sex videos’ that force survivors to relive the trauma of sexual assault every time it is reposted online, via mobile phone or distributed in other ways. These forms of violence may also be mediated through technology but they cause psychological and emotional harm, reinforce prejudice, damage reputation, cause economic loss and pose barriers to participation in public life. Reporting and responses of these violations are generally limited and the harm and abuse are poorly understood.
VAW that is committed, abetted or aggravated through the use of ICTs and in online spaces are part of the continuum of violence against women and is a significant barrier to women’s and girls’ ability to take advantage of the opportunities that ICT provide for the full realisation of women’s human rights and development.
Recommendations for action:
1. Recognition of technology-related forms of VAW
Technology-related forms of violence must be recognised as a form of violence against women and be integrated in monitoring, prevention and response mechanisms, including in public policy and in expanding the implementation of anti-VAW laws. States, inter-governmental institutions and other actors must address technology-related forms of violence against women in their response and prevention efforts.
2. Multi-sectoral prevention and response mechanisms
Holistic, multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral (primary, secondary and tertiary) prevention and response mechanisms must include private sector technology actors, state telecommunications and communications institutions, and the technical and internet rights communities.
3. Evidence building: Reporting on technology-related forms of VAW
Systematic reporting and monitoring of technology-related forms of VAW must be instituted at all levels. National statistics and indicators on VAW must include a component reporting specifically on ICT-related VAW, so that trends can be monitored and addressed.
4. Capacity building for actors in the criminal justice system
Capacity building for public officials in the areas of education, health, social welfare and justice as well as the judiciary and police must include awareness, understanding and responses to technology-related forms of violence against women. Accountability mechanisms must be established and strengthened to ensure compliance of public officials with laws and regulations that respond to these violations.
5. Engaging intermediaries to build safer online spaces
Internet intermediaries including internet and mobile service providers must be called upon to develop corporate policies, practices and tools that respect women’s rights and condemn online practices that are harmful to women.