We can be heroes: Towards public and legal recognition of online gender-based violence

17 June 2018

Detail of collage by Flavia Fascendini

Online violence, bullying, harassment, theft of identity, non-consensual circulation of intimate images - are now being recognised as offences in most countries, and acknowledged in public discourse as misogyny and attempts to silence women and gender-diverse people (gender non conforming, gender queer, trans gender, non binary and intersex people, and others) from participation in public life and denying them their rights to free expression and association, especially online. This bilingual edition in English and Spanish looks at new and emerging issues in relation to online gender-based violence (GBV) in Malaysia, Egypt, India, Palestine, north America, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and various other countries and contexts.

This includes

  • liability of State and companies
  • regulations for circulation of images
  • remedies in private, criminal, civil law and remedies offered by companies
  • intersectionality and impact on women from varied backgrounds including minority women, Dalit women, black and Nubian women
  • technology-based and app-based solutions to online GBV
  • silencing of diverse people and expressions; silencing of activists and human rights defenders who are women or gender-diverse

As the 38th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council begins, this collection of articles focuses on forms of online gender-based violence and technology-facilitated violence and varied methods of tackling the problem - death threats to women journalists online, the silencing of women and marginalised voices, ineffective legal frameworks to tackle the problem, technology and app-based solutions to GBV, to the circulation of rape videos and related extortion of vulnerable women. This edition also looks more closely at who faces higher proportion of online GBV and more vicious forms of abuse online - and this focus on intersectionality changes the nature of the discourse around online GBV and vulnerability.

[EDITORIAL]Recognition of online GBV in international law: the highs and lows
Jan Moolman
Over a decade of consistent work around visibility of online GBV has led to finally a report by the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women that specifically addresses this phenomenon. Jan Moolman sketches out a brief timeline of the milestones towards the recognition of online GBV, and this has included advocating for inclusion of sensitive language within international law and resolutions, campaigns in different parts of the world, detailed research and reports on different forms of online GBV and technology-facilitated violence, especially in the global South.

Do we need new laws to address non-consensual circulation of intimate images: the case of Brazil
Mariana Valente
The choice between developing new laws and frameworks for cyber offences or to work with existing laws is a dilemma faced in many countries in the global South. In this article, the legal solutions to non consensual intimate images are examined from the perspective of women who have been victimised. What do we want and expect from our legal and judicial mechanisms? How can these be more accessible, and how do we ensure equality for women of different backgrounds?

Cyber violence against women: the case of Bangladesh
Farhana Akhter
Violence against women online is shaped by historical, cultural and social factors and this article explores the specific context of Bangladesh. This includes specific targeting of public women and journalists online and the exploitation of women by those they have had intimate relationships with. Far from being an "elite white country problem", this article shows how women in the global South have to deal with various forms of online gender-based violence and ineffective policing and judicial systems.

Online GBV in Palestine means losing out on women's participation
In recent times there has been a dramatic increase in the use of internet and social media by Palestinians. In this context there is also a rising wave of online gender-based violence that leads to intimidation of women and self-censorship, which means that often women are withdrawing from social media platforms that are an arena of political and social confrontation against the Israeli occupation, building historical narratives as well as talking about internal issues within Palestinian society.

Hidden figures - A look at technology-mediated violence against women in India
Anita Gurumurthy and Amrita Vasudevan
IT for Change held a consultation in 2017 on the various forms of gender based cyber violence that affects women in India. Here various researchers and speakers gathered to share their data, insight and questions on the kinds of online violence faced by women in different professions, strata and social locations - from vernacular journalists to students in colleges, rural and urban women. This article also looks at various legal mechanisms and solutions offered by the state and what could be the way to address online violence.

Comic by Sanitary Panels

Intersection of identities: Online gender and caste based violence
Kiruba Munusamy
Women who are also from vulnerable and marginalised communities such as Dalit women in India, face additional and vicious forms of online violence and harassment. In addition their access to justice is tenuous and fraught, adding progressively to the impunity with which caste- and gender-based harassment takes place.

Online violence faced by outspoken activists: the case from Egypt
Yara Sallam
Online violence and harassment mirrors the realities of persecution in the "real world" and extends the avenues for prejudice and discrimination. In Egypt, outspoken activists and Nubian people supporting the cause of Nubians to their own land and also speaking out about race and skin colour-based prejudice face virulent online attacks and are also banned by the Egyptian government.

Toxic Twitter: Amnesty International report on social media and online violence
Azmina Dhrodia
Twitter, in particular, can be a powerful tool for women to make connections and express themselves - from high-level female politicians to journalists, activists, writers and bloggers, to women who simply want to know what’s happening around them. It is allegedly the space where ‘every voice has the power to impact the world’. But as revealed by the report by Amnesty International, Twitter is also a platform where violence and abuse against women flourishes, often with little accountability. This article gives the main highlights from the report "Toxic Twitter"

For women in the press like Rana Ayyub, it’s scarily easy for online threats to turn physical
Shreya Ila Anasuya
On 24 May 2018, the Office of the Human Rights Commission, United Nations put out a statement that the Indian government has a duty to protect its citizens and journalists from threats and in particular about the severity of threats against Rana Ayyub, journalist and writer based in India. This article looks at the severity of violence faced by the journalist, including physical threats, doxxing, fake videos and tweets etc.

Ciberactivismo: #Libertad para Belén
por Florencia Goldsman
#LibertadParaBelen fue un estímulo para estudiar las conversaciones en Twitter por la despenalización del aborto en la Argentina expresadas en esa plataforma durante 2016. La ola de protestas tomó cuenta de las calles y de las redes sociales digitales en la Argentina. Por primera vez una protesta masiva vinculada a la criminalización de las mujeres que abortan llegó a ser “tendencia” en Twitter.

Violencia de género en línea: un enfoque tecnopolítico
por Mariana Fossatti
Reflexionemos sobre las herramientas tecnológicas y sus implicancias en el discurso público de las mujeres en línea, buscando alternativas para tener una vida online más segura y satisfactoria, sin resignar nuestra libertad de expresión.

Apps para mujeres, ¿somos usuarias o somos producto?
por Fundación Activimo Digital Feminista
Como usuarias en un mundo digital también machista, la toma de conciencia sobre nuestra existencia online, con el debido resguardo de nuestros datos personales, nuestra libertad de expresión y nuestras iniciativas son las que liberan y fomentan actividades y participaciones relevantes. Pero ¿qué ocurre cuando ocupamos el rol de consumidoras de toda tecnología que se nos presenta como útil o imprescindible para nuestra vida diaria, sin esta información?

¿Cómo se enfrenta la violencia contra las mujeres online? Apuntes desde la sociedad civil
por Paz Peña
En un panorama donde crecientemente las disputas sobre equidad de género comienzan a tomarse todos los ámbitos del poder, parece importante aprovechar la oportunidad de indagar en las posiciones de organizaciones civiles y activistas sobre lo desafíos que implica la violencia de género en el contexto digital.

Radiactivismo feminista en #NiUnaMenos
por Florencia Flores Iborra
En la cuarta edición de la movilización las Radialistas Feministas ocuparon internet y organizaron una cobertura colaborativa federal. Compañeras de toda la Argentina sumaron sus voces para difundir las luchas de las mujeres, lesbianas, trans y travestis.

Publicaciones: contribuciones al informe de la Relatora Especial de la ONU
La relatora especial sobre Violencia de Género de Naciones Unidas, Dubravka Simonovic, anunció que incluirá en su próximo informe mundial a la violencia de género en línea como parte de la violencia machista cotidiana que sufren las mujeres sin distinción de países ni de culturas. Con este motivo organizaciones de mujeres y de la diversidad sexual de distintas partes del mundo realizaron informes sobre la situación en sus propios países o regiones para enviar como insumo a la relatora Simonovic.

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