From impunity to justice: Improving corporate policies to end technology-related violence against women - Summary

Rima Athar for the "End violence: women's rights and safety online" project
Association for Progressive Communications

This report explores women’s experiences of and demands for corporate accountability in cases of technology-related violence against women (VAW) as highlighted by the Association for Progressive Communication’s (APC) seven-country research initiative, “From impunity to justice: Exploring corporate and legal remedies for technology-related violence against women”, conducted in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan and the Philippines.

Here, in-depth case studies on survivors’ experiences, their attempts to access justice, reviews of corporate policies, and interviews with public policy representatives have been evaluated with reference to national telephony companies, social media and networking platforms, and pornography websites.

A total of 24 case studies were documented across the seven countries, and the policies of 22 companies were reviewed.

This report summarises some of the most common obstacles to resolving technology-related VAW under current corporate policy frameworks, and uses examples of existing company policies to shed light on best practices and possible solutions to women’s demands for corporate accountability.

The report is comprised of:

• Trends and tensions within corporate policy frameworks and a snapshot of the violations documented in the research.
• A discussion of possible steps companies can take to address technology-related VAW.
• A discussion of the role that liability has played in shaping company policies and practices.
• A summary of different international human rights guidelines and how companies have incorporated these into their practices.
• Recommendations for a) individuals seeking recourse from companies for technology-related VAW, b) strategies for women and human rights advocates, and c) areas for further research.

The scope of the report is limited by the fact that of the 22 companies reviewed here, only six made themselves available for interviews.

Therefore the report represents the data that was available to the research teams, but notes that the companies reviewed may be taking other steps towards addressing technology-related VAW that have not been publicised. Three main challenges were encountered in the research and are therefore reflected in the report.

Firstly, there are difficulties around developing a comprehensive definition of technology-related violence against women; in particular, what constitutes a violent act, and what makes that act VAW? There is also a lack of definitional clarity around what the role of technology vis-à-vis that violence is.

Secondly, there were barriers to contacting informants for the research. In the case of survivors of VAW, the reason was often the shame associated with VAW, and in the case of companies, the challenge can be attributed to a lack of transparency and an unwillingness to recognise VAW or publicly commit to human rights.

And lastly, given the nature of the subject and the threats involved, there were challenges in ensuring anonymity and safety for both survivors as well as the research teams.

To read more on the End violence research findings click here.

This research is part of the APC “End violence: Women’s rights and safety online” project funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGIS) and is based on a strong alliance with partners in seven countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan and the Philippines.

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