Sunday, March 15, 2015

Ending Violence against Women Online: Effective Responses to Promote Women's Rights and Safety

The prevention of violence against women used to get less attention from the public than other issues such as health, hunger, and poverty of girls and women. Since 2009, Take Back the Tech, the Association for Progressive Communications, Gender IT, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands launched a project in 12 countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia to investigate how women have used technology. They looked at what particular experiences online could be, what online harassment and stalking, such as black emails and images could provoke, and its related violence and injustice, as well as how the internet has changed their lives. The countries involved in this study are The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mexico, Colombia, the Philippines, and Pakistan. However, there has been very little that women could do to tackle these problems. Therefore, these organizations are looking into available remedies.

            In terms of methodologies, the organizations develop a map of the countries regarding what has happened with individual cases. The organizations also stress the importance of gaining consent from the participants, which is a vital piece of the internet world. From their investigation, the organizations found that some women are affected even when they are offline. For example, one woman was filmed accidentally in a video which was placed on YouTube later and circulated among a group of boys. She was threatened by having sex with these boys for not sharing this video with her parents. Moreover, invisible actors play important roles behind the scenes. The most common scenario is that the sexual harassment is done by a known person. It doesn’t only cause physical and emotional harm, but it is also invasion of privacy. Sadly, there is a lack of attention to Global South regions.

Currently, the biggest challenges are the absence of an international convention toward those who violate women’s rights and a lack of legislation against cyber crime. Many reports have been ignored or even deleted. Many feminist accounts are hacked as well. By 2003, only six countries had internal laws for protecting women on the internet.  Some countries have laws on cyber crime; however they are mainly bank-oriented, such as the disclosure of credit card information. Nevertheless, online sexual harassment definitely includes psychological violence, which is the most difficult to report and to prove in the courts on the national level. In Kenya, people affected do not know how to use technology. By the end of 2014, Take Back the Tech, the Association for Progressive Communications, Gender IT, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands started approaching the police for partnerships to ensure the urgency of carrying out legislation. So, how is the international community going to handle it? This is the question that we must continue working on.

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