Technology-Assisted Violence Against Women may soon end in Kenya

From Left: Anthony Wafula, Programmes Officer - Kenya Media Programme at Hivos, Dr. Katherine Getao, ICT Secretary ,Mrs Elsy Sainna, Deputy Executive Director - ICJ Kenya during the launch of the policy brief titled Ending Technology-Assisted Violence Against Women (TAVAW). Photo: Courtesy
From Left: Anthony Wafula, Programmes Officer - Kenya Media Programme at Hivos, Dr. Katherine Getao, ICT Secretary ,Mrs Elsy Sainna, Deputy Executive Director - ICJ Kenya during the launch of the policy brief titled Ending Technology-Assisted Violence Against Women (TAVAW). Photo: Courtesy

Cyber bullies will soon suffer great consequences if recommendations by International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) are adopted and implemented in kenya.

The policy brief titled Ending Technology-Assisted Violence Against Women (TAVAW) in Kenya seeks to reduce and if possible end the growing trend of women being constantly abused over the internet.

According to Elsy Sainna, Deputy Executive Director – ICJ Kenya, 90percent of Kenyans have mobile phones and 60percent of them can access the internet. Children in primary schools have also received free tablets, which will improve their education but also increase their exposure to the internet. This she says exposes more people to being victims of cyber crimes.

While addressing partners at the launch of the policy brief Ms. Sainna said “Globally, many people are at risk of cyber bullying but women bear higher risks and that is why we decided to be gender biased and give women priority.”

TAVAW encompasses acts of violence that are committed through the use of information technologies (ICT), such as phones, the internet, social media platforms and emails.

According to UN Women, one in three women is likely to experience physical and sexual violence at some point in her lifetime and 35percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives. There is however a growing concern that development in technology has given rise to digital space and tools that facilitate replication of such violence online.

Prevalent forms

Some of the prevalent forms of TAVAW identified by ICJ are cyber-stalking, cyber-bullying, online harassment, trolling, hacking, surveillance, impersonation, denigration, malicious distribution, and in the case of children grooming.

A good example is that of women who were stripped naked in the streets of Nairobi for allegedly dressing indecently. The women suffered both physical and psychological abuse yet their pain did not end there. Millions of people got to see the videos and pictures that were shared around social media.

According to Dr. Katherine Getao , the ICT Secretary ,many times people share information that is private to their  close circles of friends. These people however forget that they have no control over what the recipient of the information will do next. “Information that is shared in private circles can reach the whole world in seconds. Therefore as much as we don’t want to be abused over the internet let us also be very careful with what we share,” she said.

Dr. Getao also added that some information can be edited to fit the criminals agenda like pornography.

According to the policy brief, the law enforcement officials revealed that there are several challenges, most notably that it was difficult to deal with acts that were not defined as offences in law. It was also observed that the police did not keep statistics of complaints that are filed, making it difficult to establish trends. Lastly, resource constraints and a lack of knowledge and training of police, prosecution and judicial officers, on technology and cyber-crimes, presented serious challenges in investigating and collecting evidence in TAVAW cases.

Gaps

Currently Kenya has laws that could be used to curb TAVAW but according to Ms. Sainna, most of them have loopholes that allow the criminals to roam freely.

Some of the recommendations for the amendment of the laws are as follows: Decriminalization of defamation under the Penal Code so as to make it easy for the victims to report the perpetrators without intimidation.

The policy also recommends the inclusion of cyber-stalking, online harassment, online distribution of offensive materials, malicious distribution and soliciting. The act should also provide mechanisms for protection like restraining orders and create a provision with a rider for an aggravated level where ICTs are used to commit sexual offences.

Another suggestion is to include online trolling, cyber- bullying, online shaming, hacking, surveillance and spamming and many others in the Sexual Offences Act, 2006, Kenya Information and Communication ACT,2013.

According to the policy brief, Children ACT, 2001 is not complete without inclusion of online grooming, online child prostitution, provision of child protect measures like protection orders and retribution for child victims of TAVAW.

Other laws that need to be amended are Data Protection Bill, 2012, Cybercrime and computer Related Crimes Bill, 2016, Criminal Procedure Act, Chapter 75 Laws of Kenya and Evidence Act, Chapter 80 Laws of Kenya.

The stakeholders also gave specific recommendations to the Government, Intermediaries (Private sector) and Civil Society.

The policy was funded by HIVOS in partnership with ICJ-Kenya and other stake holders.