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2018 Symposium on online and ICT-faciliated VAW | Vienna Femicide Team

September 1, 2018 — Research, Analysis, Report, Study

On the 2018 International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (25th of November), the Femicide Team of the ACUNS Vienna Liaison Office organized a symposium on cybercrimes commited against women: "Gender Inequality in the Digital Era: Addressing Online and ICT-Facilitated Violence Against Women"
 

Saide Mobayed —

The following article has been published in the Femicide Volume X, pages 80-81.

Online and ICT-facilitated violence against women is understood as “any act of gender-based violence against women that is committed, assisted, or aggravated in part or fully by the use of ICT, such as mobile phones and smartphones, the Internet, social media platforms or email, against a woman because she is a woman, or affects women disproportionately” (UNSRVAW, 2018).

When women and girls do have access to and use the Internet, they face online forms and manifestations of violence that are part of the continuum multiple, recurring and interrelated forms of gender-based violence against women.
— Dr. Dubravka Šimonović, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences

Notwithstanding that the last 40 years have shown an incredible global advance in framing women’s rights as human rights, violence against women and girls (VAW) is far from being dealt with and, moreover, recurrently manifests itself across different spaces: both in the offline and in the online realm. The rapid increase of the current digital age has changed the ways in which people in society meet, interact, interrelate and communicate. Unfortunately, the inequalities produced by patriarchal structures are extrapolated from the offline into the online sphere. Although ICT-facilitated violence against women is considered a relatively new phenomenon, the scarce data collected on this matter estimates that 23% of women have experienced online abuse or harassment at least once in their life and 1 in 10 women have experienced some form of online violence since the age of 15.
Recent documented cyber-attacks against women and girls vary in forms and across nations. The severity of its consequences lead to suicide, being that the case of Amanda Todd, who was only 13 years old when the cyber bullying she was tormented with—which included sexual exploitation—lead her to take her own life in 2012. Similarly, Rehtaeh Parsons was 15 when she committed suicide after being gang raped by her classmates, photographed and exposed to a wide range of victim-blaming online abuses (1).

Even though the VAW Learning Network recognizes six broad categories that encompass forms of online against women and girls: hacking, impersonation, surveillance/tracking, harassment/spamming, recruitment and malicious distribution; and a report of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) identifies cyber stalking, cyber harassment and non-consensual pornography as ICT-facilitated forms of VAW; the lack of tangible data and international normative frameworks aimed at addressing this heinous phenomenon across Member States are seldom established and regulated.

In her latest report (2) the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Dr. Dubravka Šimonović extensively addresses her concern on this phenomenon and calls upon the States and non-State agents to recognize online and ICT-facilitated violence against women and girls as a human rights violation and a form of discrimination and gender-based violence against women. She encourages States to act in accordance with the principle of due diligence to measure and prohibit these new emerging forms of online gender-based violence.

Consequently, in the frame of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, ACUNS Vienna Liaison Office Femicide Team brings together the Gender Inequality In The Digital Era: Addressing Online And ICT-Facilitated Violence Against Women event, which aims to join this debate by highlighting the insufficient quantitative and qualitative data collection and thus availability, limited attention and recognition of online and ICT-facilitated violence against women and girls as a form of VAW. Therefore, it seeks to reach the following objectives:

Objectives:
• To introduce and recognize online and ICT3-facilitated forms of violence against women and girls (VAW) as a form of VAW;
• To conceptualize online and ICT-facilitated forms of violence against women and girls (VAW) within the gender and human rights international normative framework;
• To discuss the possibilities offered by the international human rights instruments, the international women’s human rights law and standards, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to tackle online and ICT-facilitated violence against women;
• To explore the responsibilities of Member States, Internet intermediaries and all stakeholders to ensure women’s and girls’ safe and secure access to online and ICT products and services;
• To debate and identify ways to ensure accurate quantitative and qualitative data collection regarding incidents of online violence against women and girls;
• To share good practices on the rule of law regarding online and ICT-facilitated forms of violence against women;
• To identify justice response mechanisms and preventive measures that Member States and Internet intermediaries should introduce to ensure the prevention, sanction, attention and elimination of online violence against women and girls.

Footnotes

1 UN Women and UNDP, 2015, Cyber Violence against Women and Girls: A World-Wide Wake-up Call. A Report by the UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development Working Group on Broadband and Gender. Available at: http://www.unwomen.org/~/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2015/cyber_violence_gender%20report.pdf?v=1&d=20150924T154259.
2 UNGA, 2018, Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences on online violence against women and girls from a human rights perspective.
Online and ICT-facilitated violence against women is understood as “any act of gender-based violence against women that is committed, assisted, or aggravated in part or fully by the use of ICT, such as mobile phones and smartphones, the Internet, social media platforms or email, against a woman because she is a woman, or affects women disproportionately” (UNSRVAW, 2018).

About the author

Saide Mobayed is the current Senior Editor and Content Manager of the “Global Knowledge Hub to Prevent and Eliminate the Gender-related Killing of Women and Girls” (http://femicide-watch.org/). She has collaborated with the “Gender and Justice” project at UNODC Mexico and has been an active member of ACUNS Vienna Liaison Femicide Team since 2016. Mobayed holds an Erasmus Mundus Master’s Degree in Global Studies, where she thoroughly analysed the transnational dimension of violence against women (VAW), a research that will be continued during her current PhD project at the Centre for Globalisation and Global Governance in the University of Hamburg.