From the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) Women, this fact sheet describes the use of information and communication technology (ICT) to perpetrate violence against women (VAW), what questions it raises, and how ICT might provide solutions.
Among the facts from research on how new technologies are being used by abusers and by women fighting back are these (footnotes removed by editor):
- "The UN [United Nations] estimates that 95% of aggressive behaviour, harassment, abusive language and denigrating images in online spaces are aimed at women and come from partners or former male partners.
- Both men and women are affected by cyberstalking, but a survey in India found that victims aged between 18 and 32 were predominantly female.
- Research in Argentina shows that a woman's mobile phone is one of the first items to be destroyed by a violent partner.
- ICTs like the internet and mobile phones are a double-edged sword - they can be used by abusers to deepen their control and by survivors of violence to connect to help and by women's rights defenders to inform, denounce and strategise to end violence."
Questions posed include the following:
- How is technology changing abuse by intimate partners? Case studies describe the use of ICT to perpetrate VAW in various ways: Mobile text messages (SMS) can cause accusations of infidelity, resulting in VAW by partners. Partner possession of intimate photos and video can be used for blackmail to trap women in violent relationships. The option of tracking another mobile phone without a party's permission or knowledge where there are no laws of privacy protection may be implicated in VAW. Where it is common to find women and girls using an email account set up for them by a male who then keeps the password details, privacy and its violation are an issue.
- How is technology changing sexual harassment? Problems involving technological possibilities include: manipulating photographic images, fraudulent postings and advertisements, and persistent mobile calls from strangers.
- How is technology changing sex trafficking? Research shows that: traffickers are using the internet to communicate with and recruit victims, and private home videos with sexual content are being commercialised.
As reported here, women are using technology to end violence, using "take back the tech" strategies. "Women’s rights activists use the internet, mobile phones and other technologies to strengthen their campaigns and advocacy, expand their networks, prevent violations and support healing of survivors. Particularly social networking tools and mobile phones are making it possible for women's rights groups to reach constituencies that they didn't before. As well as traditional telephone hot-lines and assistance, research has uncovered other strategies used by women and assistance groups."
Prevention measures using ICT include the following: Some women have acquired two subscriber identity module [SIM] cards to avoid domestic violence, one for home use and one for calling when the potentially suspicious partner is not present. Campaigns on mobile phone safety help young girls educate themselves about phone chats and messages in order to prevent them from becoming victims of violence or harassment when using the internet and cell phones. One international campaign is called "Keep your chats exactly that!"
Using ICTs for recognition includes strategies such as using YouTube for raising the visibility of legitimised violence such as public flogging of women in a tribal area of Pakistan. Participatory video is giving voice to those formerly rarely heard through digital stories, for example, rape survivors. In Uganda, women have also used the internet in combination with television, radio, newspapers, and other print media to highlight rape, victimisation, and harassment carried out by the security agencies. Sexual minorities are disseminating information on gender discrimination issues, along with publicising court rulings that have bearing on discrimination. An online anti-violence campaign in Brazil has linked to a soap opera on VAW issues by presenting VAW statistics and offering helpline information as well as videos and campaign spots and messaging through Twitter. International campaigning has been used to pressure governments to address individual cases of VAW that have not previously received legal system attention.
The document concludes with internet-based resources gathered by the APC.
Press release from Inter Press Service (IPS) Africa to The Communication Initiative on November 19 2010 and email from Kat Brimacombe to The Communication Initiative on December 9 2010.