South Africa: Violence against Women and ICT




The
South African Constitution is one of the most progressive in the
world. South Africa's government has
committed itself to eradicating violence against women (VAW).
It has ratified the Beijing Platform for Action and CEDAW and
passed a number of pieces of legislation that attempt to tackle the
issue of VAW. But for many women, violence has become a part of
everyday life and threatens to erode legal and political gains.
Statistics show that 8.8 per 100,000 women 14 years and older are
killed. A woman is
killed every six hours in South Africa
– the highest rate yet reported by research anywhere in the
world. The rape homicide rate is 3.65 per 100,000 women 14 years
and older. Domestic violence affects one in two women in some parts
of South Africa. One in nine women raped report the attack to the
police. Civil society organisations provide shelters, intervention
services, legal assistance and rape crisis centres and are
implementing a growing number of social services. Some are using ICTs
in their work to combat VAW.
ICT
statistics reveal that 10.5% of the population access the internet,
of which 51% are women but this is limited
to the wealthy. Eighty percent of the
population own mobile phones, almost half being women. ICT policies
take a gender-neutral approach so benefits accrue to men. Technology
is developing faster than South African society can fully comprehend its uses and implications. There is little
understanding of the strategic use of ICTs to support combating VAW
as well as recognition of new avenues for
perpetrating violence against women.
ICT-related
VAW legislation
The
Domestic Violence Act 1998 recognizes stalking and harassment
through telephone calls and electronic mail. The Sexual Offences
Amendment Act 2007 includes display of child pornography and
creation of child pornography as an offence. The act makes interim
provisions relating to combating trafficking in persons for sexual
purposes. The Protection From Harassment Bill 2009 defines
harassment as directly or
indirectly engaging in conduct that causes harm and includes,
following, pursuing or accosting verbally or electronically. The
Children’s Act 2005, Children’s Amendment Act 2007 provide
provision to combat child pornography. South
Africa's National Policy Framework for Women's Empowerment and Gender
Equality makes a commitment to redress inequities in the
ICT sector and support women’s participation.
Concerns
Censorship
vs. freedom of expression:
Technically pornography is permissible as the Constitution states
that every person has the right to freedom of expression, freedom of
the press, other media and to freedom of artistic creativity. It also
states that everyone has inherent dignity and protection against
anything that constitutes incitement to cause harm.
Privacy
vs. surveillance: The
right to privacy of communication is a fundamental right protected in
the constitution but other acts seek to ensure that all
electronic communications infrastructure of organs of state are
protected and secure. This resides in quiet
tension with the Access to Information Act to
guarantee transparency for citizens.
Recommendations
For
government: Harmonise and implement ICT policy with a strong
gender perspective and allow for redress and transparency; put in
place gender monitoring mechanisms to monitor regulations; ensure
government has genuine multi-stakeholder consultations including
gender and ICT experts.
For
civil society: Develop collective strategies for policy and
practice; action between civil society and Commission on Gender
Equality (CGE); educate policy makers, police and service providers
on VAW and ICT; suggest relevant legislation to combat this; lobbying
for sex disaggregated statistics and indicators; development of
strategic content which is locally relevant and helps with women’s
immediate survival needs and communication rights.
For
the Association for Progressive Communications Women's Networking
Support Programme: Awareness-raising on the
importance of ICTs and the potential harm to women and
strategic use of ICTs for anti-VAW
organizations; skills transfer workshops and training sessions for
key practitioners and social justice activists in the use of ICTs.
Publication date: 
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Year of publication: 
2009