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In this brief submission to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, APC identifies the nexus between domestic violence and online gender-based violence in the context of COVID-19, drawing on some issues to consider from country-led and regional case studies.

At the outset, we dive into provisions around women’s right to live a life free of violence and discrimination. There is strong evidence to posit that technology-mediated environments are conducive to already existing gender-based violence against women in all spheres of human interaction. Hence, we put forward that the disclosure and the understanding of ICT-related implications is crucial to thwart potential risks of violence against women that the internet might bring along and amplify in a fertile sphere of expansion, searchability and transmission.

Second, we conduct a review of what domestic violence stands for across jurisprudences. Although the legal definition of domestic violence does not entail a univocal meaning, it conversely embeds a ubiquitous technological dimension that should rather be treated as a serious offence. In this regard, we stress that practice, policy and actions should ensure that the same human rights of women offline are also guaranteed online, including all used, emerging and envisaged means of human interaction that prevent women from living in a society free of direct or low-key manifestations of gender-based violence.

Third, we foreground COVID-19 repercussions on the broader state of gender equality and social justice. We note with concern the uptick in domestic violence fuelled in a context of online gender-based inequalities that can neither be overstated nor go unnoticed. We reaffirm how the pandemic is taking a disproportionate toll on women, particularly on those who are digitally disenfranchised.

Fourth, we highlight high-priority issues for the Special Rapporteur’s consideration that require immediate action in light of the international pledge to dismantle the shadow pandemic against women.

Finally, we present recommendations for action for governments, United Nations agencies, special procedures and civil society.

Throughout this submission, APC recognises that in most jurisdictions, both the existing legal frameworks and their practical implementation remain highly inadequate to properly investigate, address and mitigate the digital manifestations of gender-based violence, including domestic violence.

Download the full submission here.