Urgent action needed to end technology assisted violence against women in Kenya

December 6, 2016

A new policy brief released today by Hivos East Africa and International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) reveals that the rise of internet and mobile technologies has created yet another arena for continued violence against women in Kenya. The policy paper urges government and the ICT sector to work together to adequately provide redress measures and mechanisms to counter these forms of violence.

The paper indicates that the existing legal frameworks in the country such as the Sexual Offences Act and the Penal Code are very limited in providing legal responses to the rising phenomenon. Coupled with poor implementation, this often leaves the victims (mostly women and children) vulnerable to online violence and engenders impunity amongst the perpetrators.

Entitled: ‘Stop Technology Assisted Violence against Women’’, the paper was released today at a stakeholders workshop in Nairobi convened by Hivos East Africa and ICJ. The stakeholders from civil society, government and the ICT sector hope that the paper will go a long way in improving the policy environment and putting systems in place to curb the growing violence.

The study, commissioned by Hivos East Africa in 2015, was conducted by ICJ to gauge the manifestations of Technology Assisted Violence against Women (TAVAW) in Kenya and the remedies put in place to address this crime. The paper notes that online violence against women exists in many forms: cyber-stalking, cyber-bullying, online harassment, trolling, hacking, surveillance, impersonation and in the case of children, grooming.

Sharing of embarrassing material on social networking accounts and receipt of offensive communication were the most common types of incidents reported by respondents interviewed during the study. 94 per cent of respondents further felt that this particular form of violence against women should be criminalised with clearer cyber laws and penalties.

International instruments, such as the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (DEVAW), recognise violence against women as an obstacle to the achievement of equality, development and peace. However, 20 years after the DEVAW was issued, forms of violence against women are still on the rise, with technology being the latest platform to facilitate such violence online.

Some of the key findings from the report include:

  • The policy guidelines of many social media platforms that regulate conduct and allow for reporting do not go far enough to address online violence against women.
  • Law enforcement officials still do not have the capacity to deal with cyber-crimes as these have not been defined as offences in law.
  • The police do not keep statistics of complaints that are filed, making it difficult to establish trends.
  • Resource constraints on dealing with cybercrimes make it difficult to investigate and collect evidence in new cases.

The paper further presents a set of recommendations, proposing the development of regulations that will shape policy and safeguard women from online misogyny. These include:

  • Legislation and policies that provide a clear definition of TAVAW and establish reporting and redress mechanisms
  • Revised laws that clearly define and provide stiffer penalties for these offences
  • Zero-tolerance policies on TAVAW within the private sector
  • Strengthened civil society advocacy for policy, legal and institutional reforms to ensure lasting change

Hivos East Africa believes that every human being has a right to live in freedom and dignity. This includes the right of women to live in a world – physical or virtual – free from discrimination and violence.

A copy of the report can be downloaded from the right side bar.