One of the difficulties faced by women's rights
advocates is the reluctance of some participants to see the internet
as a political issue; unable to see that this refusal is in itself a
political act. The lack of adequate resources, information or
analysis that explores communications and technology policies that
prevent, minimise or address harm to women is a material challenge
faced by advocates working on violence against women.

violence with technology in 12 countries

the next two months, will be publishing a series of
papers that provide a snapshot and baseline on the law and policy on
ICTs and violence against women (VAW) in 12 countries across Africa,
Asia and Latin America. The papers are part of the Association for
Progressive Communications Women's Networking Support Programme (APC
project that connects ICTs, VAW and Millennium Development
Goal Three (MDG3). This project is entitled, “Strengthening women’s
strategic use of ICTs to combat violence against women and girls”,
and is supported by the Dutch government’s MDG3

to empower women and promote gender equality.

two and a half year project, initiated in January 2009, aims to help
women participants negotiate the fraught terrain of ICTs where
freedoms go hand in hand with growing privacy and security concerns.
Through a multifaceted approach, it aims to facilitate discussion and
partnership between women's rights advocates, representatives from
the ICT sector and policy makers towards solutions and policies that
can address the intersection between VAW and ICT.

Understanding the issue

of the participating countries illustrates different challenges and
opportunities for how ICTs impact on VAW, either in worsening the
problem, for example through the use of ICTs in trafficking, or in
providing a space where women can collaborate and network against
violence. In Argentina, around half the population has access to the
internet, a figure that hides large disparities. For example,
three-quarters of those over 50 don't know what a web browser is. In
Brazil, like in many countries participating in the project, mobile
phones are the most widely used gateway to new technologies. However,
legislation on communications and VAW is primarily focussed on
representations and portrayal of women through broadcasting laws.

problems faced by women in Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo
and Colombia are made worse by the conflict in those societies. Yet,
statistics from Colombia show, 91% of the VAW occurs at the hands of
their spouses, partners or boyfriends. Congo is emerging from armed
conflict, with new challenges for women in a country that is heavily
militarised, with the military and ex-combatants perpetrating sexual
violence in post-conflict areas. In all three countries, women are
more likely to suffer sexual violence and rape in the conflict areas,
with rape seen as a weapon of war, but legislation and the ability to
implement laws on VAW are inadequate to deal with the violence that
women face. Little is explored on the potential benefits of ICT to
counter such violence, for example in the creation of rapid support
networks, documentation or information exchange.

gap between legislation and implementation is particularly stark in
South Africa. The country has one of the most progressive
constitutions in the world, but a woman is killed every six hours -
the highest rate of femicide anywhere in the world. Even in
legislation, there are tensions between the guarantees of freedom of
expression and the perceived need to protect women and children from
pornography, and between privacy and the right to information.
Likewise, in Uganda, despite a national gender policy and
ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

, almost a quarter of women report that their first sexual encounter
was forced. As with many countries, there is little information
available on the intersection between VAW and ICTs. Nonetheless,
anecdotal evidence shows that mobile phones are both enabling greater
control and monitoring of women by their partners as well as
providing women with new spaces to forestall domestic violence.

invisibility of VAW is highlighted in the paper from Pakistan. The
high cost to women of reporting VAW, in terms of loss of social
support, income and kinship structures, is also examined. In
contrast, domestic violence and rape-homicide cases have a
comparatively high profile in Malaysia, due to advocacy from the
women's movement. However, the lack of legislation on privacy and
poor guarantees for freedom of expression are having an impact on the
exercise of women's human rights and to the development of
comprehensive measures to eliminate VAW.

and the unauthorised use of images of women is a concern in all
countries. In Cambodia, where internet access is limited, there is
widespread use of cheap pornographic VCDs made using images
originally filmed for private use, but subsequently used to control
women through humiliation and shaming. Despite calls for the
mainstreaming of gender concerns in all government ministries, there
is little evidence that this has been applied in ICT policy. Mexico
and Philippines reports echo the majority of country reviews, noting
that ICT policy is largely driven by e-commerce and e-governance
issues, and not seen in a human rights and harm minimisation
framework, despite sound legislation to protect women's human rights.

all 12 countries, the themes of privacy, freedom of expression and
the enforcement of legislation form a sobering backdrop to some
startling and innovative ways in which women are using technology to
advance their rights and empower women. Abstracts
for all twelve country papers are available in this issue of
Gender-Centred. Papers will be uploaded over the next two months in
their original languages of English, Spanish, or Portuguese.

Take Back the Tech!

WNSP’s Take
Back the Tech
campaign to end violence against women, now in its fourth year and
growing increasingly stronger, offers a strong platform and community
for project activities, able to spotlight concerns that emerge around
ICT and VAW in each of the countries. Country coordinators, who will
all run their own local TBTT campaigns, hope to use Take Back the
Tech’s fun and creative appeal to reach out to adolescent girls and
young women.

the project aims to help create a global community of women and
adolescent girls who are critically taking up ICT tools and using
them to change what the UN Millennium Project has called a global
epidemic of violence. To build on this effort, GenderIT would like to
invite your participation to identify and connect policy and
legislative concerns in the field of ICT and VAW, as part of
GenderIT's initiative to Take Back The Tech! Watch out for our
announcement and join us on 25th November - International Day for the
elimination of all forms of violence against women.

Responses to this post

This is a good initiative and I highly commend the efforts of the APC and it collaborators the two ladies authors of the research article.
We willlike to stay in touch with your works particularly this initiative.
Stay blessed
Ambo Gaby
Jurist, Human Rights Advocate
P.O.BOX 154, COM. AV.
Bamenda, Cameroon
237 77 06 88 56

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