#DigitalViolenceIsReal: the medium does not matter, consent matters

Blog Digital Campaigns

“La Violencia Digital Es Real” (Digital Violence Is Real) is a campaign promoted by TEDIC that seeks to put online gender violence on the spotlight, sensitize about it and generate public discussion, through the website violenciadigital.tedic.org, social media platforms and advocacy actions.

Digital (or online) gender violence exists today and is perpetrated, instigated or aggravated through the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), such as social media platforms or email services.

The prevalence of this type of violence represents a threat to the well-being of women who inhabit digital spaces, since it causes psychological and emotional damage, reinforces prejudice, provokes reputation damage leading to economic loss, poses barriers to participation in public life, and it may lead to sexual violence and other forms of physical violence.

Just like social inequalities are transferred into the digital sphere, online violence is transferred into the offline world. The attacks that are manifested in the virtual world have a direct effect on the body and mind of the real people suffering them.

Digital and physical violence are real

The campaign “Digital violence is real”, promoted by the Association for Technology, Education, Development, Research and Communication (TEDIC), seeks to raise awareness about online gender violence, educating through content that is easy to understand and produced in a friendly and didactic language. In addition, it aims to influence the current regional legal discussion. The campaign was born in the midst of a global pandemic context, in which the situation of digital gender violence has worsened since the appearance of COVID-19, highlighting the need to adopt an urgent approach towards the effective protection of people on the Internet.

After a process of collecting opinions that took place for a month and validating them in a stage prior to the launch, we were able to verify the magnitude of the problem on social media networks. Surveys, questions regarding situations identified as recurrent and opinions expressed both privately and through comments showed that the problem is real, it exists and deserves a more rigorous treatment by the States.

What kinds of violence fall under the category ‘digital violence’? What are its effects? How should we act when we find ourselves in situations of online violence? The first part of the campaign, which will run until November, will focus on these and other questions, aimed at raising awareness and sensitizing the general public on the issue.

Later, as part of a second stage, the campaign will delve into a concrete example that illustrates the lack of judicial independence and access to justice in Paraguay.

A national legislation problem

Law No. 5776 “on integral protection of women against all forms of violence”, in force since 2016, marked an important advance on the subject but is incomplete, since it only deals with telematic violence (Art. 6, section L), covering the issues of non-consensual dissemination of images and media exposure, and leaving aside other issues such as online harassment, threats, monitoring, discriminatory expressions, discrediting, unauthorized access, impersonation/identity theft, sexual abuse and exploitation through the use of technologies. All of these issues were identified and pointed out in regional reports by APC and the NGO Luchadoras de México, who identified “13 forms of technology-related aggression against women”, and complemented with a classification of the types of aggressors on the Internet, carried out by the organization Hiperderecho.

Paloma Lara Castro, public policy analyst at TEDIC and coordinator of the project, adds that:

“currently, there are no studies that account for the problem in Paraguay, nor are there any representative data produced in the Gender observatory, dependent on the Ministry of Women. (…) Therefore, there is no development of institutional capacities that enable public policies to safeguard, protect and repair the victims of these forms of violence.”

Online gender violence, a matter of international protection

The lack of laws, due process and other defense mechanisms against human rights violations on the Internet, online violence or crimes committed in digital environments, contradicts the right of access to justice with a gender perspective, established by the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW, 1979) and its respective Optional Protocol (OP-CEDAW, 1999), as well as by the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention of Belém do Pará, 1994), all of which were signed and ratified by the Paraguayan State.

More details about the campaign #DigitalViolenceIsReal (#LaViolenciaDigitalEsReal)

In order to follow the latest developments in the campaign, there is an agile, interactive and friendly website: violenciadigital.tedic.org. There, you will find detailed information on the different forms of online violence, what to do in case of being exposed to a situation of online gender violence, what the neutrality of the internet means regarding this matter, as well as graphics and proposals towards digital action, and other content available to be shared and reused. The site was designed in scroll format, with illustrations and striking colors that facilitate the reading experience.

The campaign will be carried out on social media, both on TEDIC networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Mastodon, Telegram and WhatsApp) and on social networks of other organizations, allied, fraternal and solidary with the campaign’s cause.

The campaign has the support of CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society organizations and activists, and Indela (Initiative for digital rights in Latin America), and we expect it to become a useful resource for human rights defenders, journalists, feminist collectives, the media and social organizations.

If you are interested in joining forces with the campaign, you can share our posts on your social media networks and help us disseminate them using the hashtag #DigitalViolenceIsReal (#LaViolenciaDigitialEsReal). Because the medium does not matter, consent matters, both online and offline.