Government to include online gender based violence in Domestic Violence Act

The Research ICT Africa in collaboration with other advocacy groups is calling on the government in South Africa (SA) to consider online violence against women (VAW) in the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill. Today’s public oral submission to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services, follows a written submission made earlier this month. The submission contains three key points: ‘ensuring the Bill adopts a nuanced and evolving understanding of online domestic violence and domestic violence aided, facilitated or abetted by information and communication technologies (ICTs); reporting responsibilities in relation to directions; and the need for data protection requirements in respect of the integrated electronic repository for domestic violence protection orders.’ Apart from the opportunities the ICTs bring for South Africans, the escalation of online harms, or those facilitated, abetted, or aggravated by the Internet – including social media – and the use of other ICTs, is a prevalent challenge in the last two decades. Nowadays, a person does not need to be tech savvy to cause harm to victims and survivors of gender-based violence. It can be done with a simple smartphone. Many households in SA share a single device, therefore it is an imperative that online spaces become safer for everyone, especially children, who are easily targeted with unsolicited sexual images or messages. Another recommendation is to provide disaggregated gender and domestic violence data to include the use of ICTs in the perpetuation of violence, as well as to gather the input of various stakeholders – before developing the Bill.