Finding a Difficult Balance: Human Rights, Law Enforcement and Cyber Violence against Women
Wednesday, September 10, 2008 12:07 PM

Access to information and communications technologies (ICTs) has ushered in a new set of dilemmas confronting organizations that are committed to ending gender-based violence. In an age where cell phones and internet access are staples of daily life for many people, women are now faced with a growing occurrence of cyber violence. It is essential that advocacy groups confront this issue and include it as a concern within the wider subject area of violence against women.

On 20 August, 2008, GenderIT author Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, explored the subject of cyber violence against women. For her article Cabrera-Balleza interviewed two women who work on gender-based violence issues on the national and international level. Lesley Ann Foster is founder and director of the Masimanye Women's Support Network in South Africa. Charlotte Bunch directs the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, based out of Rutgers University in New Jersey, USA. In the interview Cabrera-Balleza prompts these women to address some of the challenges that they face in fighting cyber violence.

Foster and Bunch both emphasize the idea that gender-based violence is a form of domination. Cyber violence such as internet stalking and harassing seeks to control women through intimidation or unwanted solicitation. Regulating such activity is problematic however. Bunch points out that although there should be some sort of legal action taken when a women feels she is experiencing cyber violence, there must also be a balance between seeking legal redress and violating a person’s right to freedom of expression and privacy. The nature of the internet makes it difficult to determine who is committing cyber violence, and action by a government must not infringe on people’s basic rights. Both Foster and Bunch encourage governments to instate legislation that regulates harmful activities. This regulation however, should always include women’s voices. Bunch points out that without input from women there is a danger that women will continue to feel victimized. The goal should be to empower women, not exclude them from legal processes addressing cyber violence.

Cyber violence is a facet of gender-based violence that has only recently begun to be explored. Foster and Bunch suggest additional research and inquiry into this area.

To read full article, click here.

Compiled from: Mavic Cabrera-Balleza. “Finding a Difficult Balance: Human Rights, Law Enforcement and Cyber Violence against Women.”, 20 August, 2008.