In this brief submission to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, APC identifies the nexus between domestic violence and online gender-based violence in the context of COVID-19 drawing on some issues to consider from country-led and regional case studies.

At the outset, we dive into provisions around women’s right to live a life free of violence and discrimination to capitalise on narratives that address all forms of violence against women in their rooted sense of entitlement and power. There is a strong evidence to posit that technology-mediated environments are conducive to already existing gender-based violence against women in all spheres of human interaction. Hence, we put forward that the disclosure and the understanding of ICT-related implications is crucial to thwart potential risks of violence against women the internet might bring along and amplify in a fertile sphere of expansion, searchability and transmission.

Second, we conduct a review of what domestic violence stands for across jurisprudences. Although domestic violence legal definition does not entail a univocal meaning, it conversely embeds a ubiquitous technological dimension that should rather be treated as a serious offense. In this regard, we stress that practice, policy and actions should ensure that the same human rights of women offline are also guaranteed online, including all used, emerging and envisaged means of human interaction that prevent women from living in a society free of direct or low-key manifestations of gender-based violence.

Third, we foreground COVID-19 repercussions on the broader state of gender equality and social justice. We note with concern the uptick in domestic violence fueled in a context of online gender-based inequalities that cannot be overstated neither go unnoticed. We reaffirm how the pandemic is taking a disproportionate toll on women, particularly on those who are digitally disenfranchised.

Fourth, we highlight high-priority issues for the Special Rapporteur’s consideration that requires an immediate action in light of the international pledge to dismantle the shadow pandemic against women.

Finally, we present recommendations for actions for governments, United Nations agencies, special procedures and civil society.

Throughout this submission, APC recognises that in most jurisdictions both the existing legal frameworks and their practical implementation remain highly inadequate to properly investigate, address and mitigate the digital manifestations of gender-based violence, including domestic violence.

CAL: Lesotho & ZimbabweThe Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL) has recently submitted two joint reports with civil society partners from Lesotho and Zimbabwe respectively documenting a nation-wide surge of domestic violence against women in the context of COVID-19.NONE

CITAD (Nigeria)

The Center for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) has conducted a desktop research and established focus group discussions with civil society actors. It has come to their attention that several factors are lending to a heightened risk of violence for women in Nigeria and technology-facilitated abuse has been given little attention in government-led initiatives aimed at tackling domestic violence in the context of COVID-19. This report derived from CITAD’s research findings explores how lockdown had impacted domestic violence in Nigeria against the backdrop of unequal access to technology.“ICTs are not just a neutral tool, they are informed by gender-biased experiences and patriarchal thinking that have gone into their making”

“As countries are struggling to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns are being raised about the effect of the pandemic on domestic gender-based violence, and this intersects with technology both as a facilitator and tool to counter such violence”

WOUGNET (Uganda)

This report from the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) focuses on domestic violence against women in Uganda during the COVID-19 pandemic and its implications in technology-assisted gender-based violence. The report further highlights efforts made by women rights organisations (WROs), the Ugandan government and other non-state actors to address this.“Government should increase budget allocation to the Ministry of ICT and Ministry of Gender to collaboratively set up virtual gender-based violence services to prepare Uganda for future pandemics and outbreaks”

Point of View (India)

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, digital violence has become part and parcel of domestic spaces. Lockdowns and work-from-home orders mean that as we inhabit domestic spaces 24/7, we simultaneously and continually inhabit digital devices too – mobiles, laptops, tablets. So much so that digital devices have become part of our domestic spaces, another layer that needs to be considered in understanding domestic violence.

Taking our cue from the Special Rapporteur’s report to the Human Rights Council in 2018, this submission underscores that “new forms of online violence are committed in a continuum and/or interaction between online or digital space; it is often difficult to distinguish the consequences of actions that are initiated in digital environments from offline realities, and vice versa”.
In this submission, ‘women’ and ‘domestic violence’ are defined as follows:

-‘Women’ are a diverse category that also comprises of trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming persons; it is understood that those within this category sit at different and fluid intersections of violence.

-‘Domestic violence’ comprises multiple types of violence that occur in the home: physical, emotional, mental, and financial, as well as digital

Digital violence is an integral aspect of domestic violence – or violence in domestic spaces – in the digital age. Research has shown that physical and digital violence often combine or interact to produce domestic violence in the digital age. As Freed et al. have noted, “Digital technologies, including mobile devices, cloud computing services, and social networks, play a nuanced role in intimate partner violence (IPV) settings, including domestic abuse, stalking, and surveillance of victims by abusive partners.
FMA  (Philippines)In times of crises, including conflicts and disasters, cases of VAW, including rape escalate especially uring disasters. Some women are also forced into prostitution, sometimes selling sex in exchange for food. FMA’s submission explores the state of Violence Against Women in the Philippines in the context of COVID-19NONE
Valida Hromadzic (Bosnia and Herzegovina)Bosnian expert Valida Hromadzic takes stock of state and non-state institutions response to VAW in the context of COIVD-19


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