To see country or technology platform specific data download the fulltext version of this article under 'Attachment' below.

Gender-based violence
is still one of the most under-reported crimes. Reasons include shame
that is associated with being a victim of gender-based violence,
normalisation or daily tolerance and acceptance of violence against
women, and that perpetrators are rarely brought to justice –
epitomised in the case of Iraqi teenager Rand whose father murdered
her for talking to a British soldier. The father says that not only
does he not face prosecution, he was congratulated by police
for his actions. This goes beyond impunity for murder.

aiding abuse

Argentina, a 16 year old girl faced a year of harassment from her
teacher. The girl's mother had unsuspectingly invited the teacher
into their home to give extra tuition. The teacher pressed sexual
advances on the child, and began a series of harssing mobile phone
calls and texts. It was only after a year of torment that the girl
showed the messages to her mother and action was taken against the

Technology presents a
powerful tool for ending gender-based violence, by allowing access to
resources and support both online and offline. It helps to publicise
abuses, which can bring pressure to bear on the authorities to take
action. However, the anonymity of the web, and its ability to shrink
distances, also mean that perpetrators can use it to harass, stalk
and find victims. Technology also heightens problems of privacy,
evidence and recompense evident in traditional gender-based violence.

Back the Tech! (TBTT)
is a campaign that aims to empower
users to use new information technologies for ending violence against
women. One important step in this is mapping the intersection between
gender-based violence and technology. This allows campaigners and
policy-makers to get a sense of the scale of gender-based violence
online, see which are the most prevalent abuses and come up with
strategies for addressing the problem.

On 25 November 2011,
TBTT has developed an
interactive map
based on Ushahidi that allows internet
users to share their stories, local news and personal experiences of
gender-based violence using technology. This map was launched on the
first day of the 16 Days of Activism Against Violence Against Women,
which also marks the International Day on the Elimination of Violence
Against Women. As of 7 December, it has recorded 103 stories from
across the globe, with the majority of stories coming from Africa,
Latin America and Asia.

What is monitored

TBTT! map organised technology-related violence against women into 5
broad categories. They are:

Culturally justified violence against women
which includes cases
where culture or religion is used as a reason to justify, ignore or
accept acts of violence against women, or when technology plays a
role in creating a culture of violence against women.

Online harassment and cyberstalking
which constitutes one of the
most visible forms of technology-related VAW

Intimate partner violence
where technology is used in acts of
violence and abuse in intimate or spousal relationships

Rape and sexual assault
where technology plays a role in tracking
the movement and activities of the victim, to provide location
information, posting of false solicitation for sexual violence or
when the violence continues because of digital recording and
distribution of the violence.

Violence targeting communities
includes cases where communities
face targeted online attacks and harassment because of their gender
or sexual identity and political stand.

from the types of violence against women, the map also monitors 4
other broad categories:

Act of violation, or what the abuser or violator did

Harm faced, ranging from physical harm to inability to participate
meaningfully in online spaces

Technology platform which was implicated or used in the incidence of

Abuser or violator, which range from known and unknown persons, to
state and non-state actors.

A snapshot of the
stories so far

TBTT map allows users to select multiple answers for each category.
So, for example, a story was shared about marriage practices from the
Karamajong people of Uganda which was flagged as involving three
types of harm: emotional or psychological harm, sexual harm and
limiting mobility. This means that each column will add up to more
than 103, though based on 103 stories shared.

Type of
technology-related VAW

Type of VAW

Total cases




Online harassment & cyberstalking


Repeated harassment (24)

Threats of violence/ blackmail (12)

Monitoring & tracking (9)

Taking photos/ video without consent (6)

Faking personal information (6)

Sharing private information (6)

Accessing private data (4)

Stealing identity/ money/ property (4)

Other (3)

Sexual assault & rape


Repeated harassment (12)

Other (9)

Monitoring & tracking (5)

Sharing personal information (5)

Taking photo/ video without consent (5)

Threats of violence/ blackmail (4)

Accessing private data (3)

Faking personal information (2)

Stealing identity/ money/ property

Intimate partner violence


Sharing private information (5)

Other (5)

Repeated harassment (5)

Monitoring & tracking (3)

Taking photo/ video without consent (3)

Threats of violence/ blackmail

Accessing private data

Faking personal information

Violence targeting communities


Other (7)

Threats of violence/ blackmail (6)

Repeated harassment (4)

Taking photo/ video without consent (3)

Monitoring & tracking (2)

Sharing private information (2)

Faking personal information

Stealing identity/ money/ property

Accessing private data

Culturally-justified VAW


Other (4)

Repeated harassment (4)

Accessing private data (2)

Threat of violence/ blackmail (2)

Stealing identity/ money/ property

Faking personal data

Taking photo/ video without consent

Monitoring & tracking

all the cases listed, the most common violation is repeated
harassment, with a total of 43 cases compared with 19 threats of
violence or blackmail. The anonymity and burden of proof can
potentially make repeated harassment easier online than offline.
However, though as the case in the text box reveals this is not
always the case – the large number of people who have access to an
individual's private data also makes it easier for abusers to find
loop-holes in security systems.

harm: A continuation of harm offline

A woman in South Africa was abused by the
man she had come to love and rely on after finding that she was HIV
positive. Nok'bekezela (pseudonym) was abandoned by her son's father
after he discovered she was HIV positive, and thought she had found
her 'true love' online through Facebook. But her lover read
conversations between Nok'bekezela and her friends, accusing her of
having affairs, publishing private information and pictures, and
abusing her both physically and emotionally. Even after they no
longer lived in the same town, he continued the abuse over Facebook.
Nok'bekezela felt she had no choice but to wait until he tired of her
– which he eventually did.

is worrying from this table is the prevalence of sexual assault and
rape, forming almost a third of all cases. This amply demonstrates
the 'real-world' implications of what happens online – what starts
online doesn't necessarily end there. It's also interesting to note
the high correlation between sexual assault and rape and repeated
harassment , suggesting a potential escalation of sexual violence
beginning from repeated harassment. This indicates the need to pay
serious attention to the prevalence of online harassment, and to take
concrete measures in responding to these situation. One of the main
considerations is greater protection and awareness on the issue of
right to privacy.

What did the
violators do

most common offence was repeated harassment, which as noted above
often coincided with emotional, physical or sexual harm. There were a
total of 44 cases of repeated harassment. The second most common was
threatening violence or blackmail, with 20 cases. Identity theft was
the least common of the offences that TBTT offered as a choice to

harassment: A case from Malaysia

P was in the process of leaving her abusive
husband when she received an SMS from him stating he had her phone
records and accusing her of having an affair. P was very disturbed as
she had not given him her new phone number. When she asked him how he
had obtained her number, her husband refused to tell her.
she discovered that her husband had bribed someone at her mobile
phone service provider. Using her private details, he had managed to
secure a print out of all the calls she had made and received. He
then proceeded to threaten all the people whose numbers were on the

When P found this out, she wrote to the
service provider and demanded they change her number and make her
records private. This ended the harassment and she proceeded with the

Harm faced

Type of harm

Total cases

Emotional or psychological harm


Harm to reputation


Physical harm


Sexual harm


Loss of identity


Mobility limited




Loss of property


is clear from these figures that the harm that is happening to women
online is generally not the harm that is being addressed by
international conventions on internet rights and related issues –
censorship and identity loss form a small fraction of the cases

more prevalent is harm that falls under more widely known areas of
violence against women – emotional, physical or sexual harm. This
suggests that despite the online nature of the violation, the harm
that is faced has serious offline repercussions. Attention is
urgently needed to address physical, emotional or sexual harm faced
by women that is perpetrated through new technologies - an area that
still receives relatively little attention in
policy discourse around cybercrime
or internet rights issues.

other area of harm which is significant is harm to reputation.

Technology platform

most common technology platform where the violence took place, or the
ICT tool which was used to perpetrate harm is the mobile phone – 67
of the above cases, compared to 50 for Facebook and 51 other. "Other"
is a category that was used mainly on reports of violence against
women that was not related to ICT. This points to both the value of
an accessible and open mapping platform to monitor and document cases
of violence against women where women can report violence and harm
anonymously, as well as a need for it, which the TBTT map addressed
although this was not the focus of the platform. These cases were
primarily from Congo and Bosnia Herzegovina.

A story without technology: Why more
spaces are needed for online sharing

From the Congo, the story of Mamie

When she was 10 years old, Mamie was sent to
the shops to buy drinks for some family friends who were visiting. On
the way, a man – a friend of her father's – waylaid her, forced
her into his car and took her to an isolated spot – the city
cemetary. There, he slapped her and forced himself onto her. She was
later found, in tears, by a family who came to the cemetary. They
took her to hospital, where her family found her. The abuser was
prosecuted and received a two-year sentence, while Mamie continues to
live with shame and the inability to engage in loving sex well into
her adult life.



Total cases

Type of violation

A group of people


Repeated harassment (9)

Other (7)

Taking photo/ video without consent (6)

Sharing private information (4)

Threats of violence/ blackmail (3)

Accessing private data (2)

Stealing identity, money, etc

Faking personal data

Monitoring & tracking

Government/ State


Other (6)

Repeated harassment (3)

Threats of violence/ blackmail (2)

Taking photo/ video without consent

Internet platform


Repeated harassment (5)

Sharing private information (3)

Monitoring & tracking (3)

Accessing private data


Taking photo/ video without consent

Faking personal information

Threats of violence/ blackmail

Someone known


Repeated harassment (28)

Other (11)

Monitoring & tracking (11)

Threats of violence/ blackmail (9)

Sharing private information (9)

Taking photo/ video without consent (9)

Accessing private information (5)

Faking personal information (2)

Stealing identity/ money/ property

Someone unknown


Repeated harassment (10)

Threats of violence/ blackmail (9)

Other (8)

Sharing private information (5)

Monitoring & tracking (5)

Taking photo/ video without consent (4)

Faking personal data (4)

Stealing identity/ money/ property (3)

Accessing private data (3)

this table, we find that the abuser or violator is consistent with
what is reported in offline violence against women: the person you're
most likely to be abused by is someone known to you, not the stranger
lurking on Facebook.

cases where the abusers were a group of people, the cases were split
between groups of people known to the victim (schoolmates, family,
friends) and strangers. Often when abusers were a group not known to
the victim, the abusers were targeting women due to their opinions,
for example, journalists who have faced sexual abuse as a result of
their work, or Eygptian bloggers who have been assaulted.

is interesting to note that out of all the cases reported, 10 cited
the government as the abuser/violator, while 8 named internet service
or platform providers are being responsible for the violation. Most
of these stories point to the failure by authorities to take action
despite reports, ranging from reports to the police that were not
followed up, to internet platforms like YouTube and Facebook lack of
response when their platform is being used to publish and disseminate
images, video or content that constituted an act of violence. This
indicates that greater clarity and commitment is needed to establish
proper accountability models to ensure that survivors of
technology-related VAW are able to seek adequate redress and justice.


picture that is emerging from the stories and experiences reported
through the TBTT mapping platform provides invaluable insight into
the dimensions of technology-related violence against women.

provide a sense of what is the scope of the issue, the linkages
between online and offline violence, the real and material harm faced
by survivors and the need for greater measures to first, recognise
the gravity of the issue, and secondly, measures to ensure that
survivors are able to gain support and access to justice.

also indicates that ICT and online spaces have become a significant
component and extension of the reality of violence against women, and
thus far, insufficient attention has been paid to it by state,
non-state and civil society actors who are committed to addressing
and eliminating violence against women, as well as who are engaged in
debates around internet rights and policy.

TBTT map is a pilot effort to provide a collaborative monitoring
platform that focuses on the role and connection between ICT and
violence against women. It is made possible through the commitment,
engagement and participation of the campaign partners in Asia, Latin
America and Africa who work on issues of violence against women as
well as internet rights from feminist perspectives. Campaigners
provided translation into their local languages, organised trainings
and discussions on the issue and brought the mapping platform to
their communities and partners through their Take Back the Tech! 16
days campaign activities.

this year's campaign, it is hoped that the map will continue to grow
and become a sustainable and useful platform for the documentation,
monitoring and surfacing of experiences of technology-related VAW
that women and girls face in different parts of the world, and stand
also as a testimony to their stories of survival.

To see country or technology platform specific data download the fulltext version of this article under 'Attachment' below.

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