Preventing violence against women (VAW) related to technology helps to create a secure environment for girls, youth, and women in all areas of life.

This is why the APC community has developed the project “End violence: women’s rights and safety online” which is being implemented in seven countries, with the support of the Fund for Leadership and Opportunities for Women (FLOW) of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGIS) from 2012 to 2014.

In a special interview for, Olga Paz Martinez (1), project liaison for APC member Colnodo, reflects on the implementation and achievements of this project in Colombia.

Florencia Flores Iborra: What has Colnodo’s experience been in implementing the project “End violence: women’s rights and security online”?

Olga Paz Martinez: Colnodo began the project in the middle of 2012. At the moment it is a very enriching experience. We have conducted research to establish the baseline of the regulatory framework regarding VAW and its relationship with ICTs (2). One of the results of this research is the confirmation that in Colombia there is no legal norm nor public policy that directly relates VAW to ICTs. There is no connection made between them. The existing standards regarding ICTs do not refer specifically to gender or violence against women, nor do the VAW laws refer to the use of ICTs as spaces that can facilitate gender violence.

Therefore, there is a legal vacuum which requires turning one by one to laws relating to violence against women, cyber crime, violation of fundamental rights such as privacy, freedom, autonomy, human dignity, the free development of personality, personal information, privacy of identity, and justice, among others.

However, there are significant achievements in international women’s human rights law, which are made tangible in a series of treaties, conventions, recommendations, and resolutions in which Colombia recognizes the protection and guarantee of women’s human rights. These international instruments provide an important basis for work on the issue of VAW at a national level (3).

Also, nationally, law No. 1257 gives women the right to live free of violence, and seeks to prevent, treat, and eradicate violence against women. However the law does not include issues related to ICTs.

In that sense the baseline offers recommendations on how we can work to generate insights on issues that have to do with the prevention of gender based violence in relation to ICTs. Proposing a regulatory framework for ICTs; establishing a process for accessing services, led by women’s organizations in dialogue with the state; and documenting cases are just a few of our activities.

The idea is to raise awareness about the issue, as well as to get civil society, the state, and local governments to recognize ICTs as a tool that can be used to undermine the rights of women.

FFI: How has your work gone documenting cases of gender based violence related to technologies?

A 13 year old minor was prostituted…

they offered the sexual services of the girl, contacting

potential clients through social networks.

OPM: The mapping of VAW cases related to ICT is a very interesting process, but I think we need to take some of our actions further. I think we need to connect more with other organizations to supplement the mapping and document more cases, so that on the basis of the mapping we can, for example, get statistics on cases and generate a typology of gender based violence related to ICTs. Mapping is an important tool for raising awareness and generating opinions on the subject. Our challenge is to develop it this year.

Teachers at an educational institution in Bogotá,

forced their students to make sexual

videos that they put online.

The teachers were condemned to 20 and 16

years in prison, respectively, when they were found

guilty of sexual crimes.

It was not easy to document these types of stories. Women resist telling their experiences. Moreover there is often not awareness that some of these actions are crimes. If, for example, someone creates a profile with my name on a social network and uses it to publish defamatory information and discredit me, that is a crime that can be reported. But people also do not know where they can go to report it. Other actions are not criminalized, but are also forms of violence against women, such as publishing intimate pictures without consent, or using cell phones to harass or assault through chat or a social network.

It is important to document these cases because they inspire us to take preventative action. In order to show the ways ICTs can be used in attacks on women and, at the same time, how they can be a tool to raise awareness, we have to spread the word about these cases, but we also have to think about how to do this without violating the rights of women.

A guy created profiles on social networks

such as Facebook, posing as a 13 year old girl, using false names

and images, and contacted girls this way.

When he had won their confidence

he asked them about their underwear, body, sexuality, etc.

Then he threatened the girls with publishing the images.

The man was captured on the 14th of July of 2012 in Bogotá.

On the internet, although women are the main victims of abuse, and abusers tend to be men, there are also cases of attacks where the victims are young males, especially in cases of cyberbullying.

Those of us women who work on these issues feel alone when it comes to talking about different gender based violences and their connection to ICTs, but also when we want to promote the use of ICTs as tools for prevention. We face a major challenge in getting women human rights defenders, activists, and leaders to recognize ICTs as possible tools for eradicating violence against girls and women. We want to ensure, for example, that campaigns like “Take Back The Tech!” have a wide reach. We need to involve more sorts of people in outreach work, more universities, social organizations, women’s organizations, local governments, and media. We have a long way to go.

Last year, for example, as part of the project we produced a report on how to include a gender perspective in media watch projects (4). This year we want to officially present this material to the media watch projects that exist in Bogotá. Normally media watch projects do not include the role of women in the analysis they do of the content of the mass media, much less of violences against women that are being legitimized by the media.

FFI: What has it been like to work with local government agencies?

OPM: In this phase of the project we want to focus on local actions. In the first phase we focused on national work, and although we managed to reach really remote areas where gender based violence is even more naturalized, this time we want to have more of an impact on policy and we believe that the Capital District (Bogotá) is an excellent setting for this. Incidentally, the municipal government of Bogotá has a recently established Secretariat for Women, policies in favor of women, media, and there is a significant women’s rights movement. We must also continue to work with national agencies, such as the Ministry of ICT, the Presidential Office for Equality for Women (ACPEM), and UN Women to strengthen our networking and seek new achievements in the prevention of violence against women.

Currently, under the coordination of the ACPEM, we are working on a comprehensive national policy on gender equality to ensure the comprehensive and interdependent human rights of women and gender equality. (5)

We interact with the ACPEM. The High Council has a strong interest in the issue of VAW, and a certain level of dialogue with the women’s movement, but sometimes it does not succeed in implementing concrete measures.

On the other hand, and as representatives of civil society, Colnodo participates in various spaces where issues of violence linked to ICTs are discussed. One is the Colectivo Ciudadano por el Derecho de las Mujeres a una Vida Libre de Violencia (Citizens Collective for the Right of Women to a Life Free of Violence), sponsored by the Corporación de Investigación y Acción Social y Económica – CIASE (Corporation for Research and Economic and Social Action).

We are also part of the Mesa Nacional de seguimiento a la ley Nº 1257 (National Forum on Law No. 1257). In both spaces we have opportunities to interact with different institutions of district and national government, and at times we have been asked to provide input for the preparation of various government documents. It is a very important forum for discussion, participation, and dialogue.

The Ministry of ICT has a very interesting initiative EnTICconfío(6) for the responsible use of ICTs, targeted at boys and girls, but it would be interesting to work on the inclusion of a gender perspective.

FFI: What do you see as the priorities for future work?

OPM: I want to emphasize one aspect I consider very important. We face a situation where there is a lot that needs to be done, but which, at the same time, offers us an opportunity. The issue of gender violence related to ICTs is truly new in our context, and particularly in Colombia, it is necessary to frame it, because it doesn’t seem to be a priority in the face of the many acts of violence suffered by women in the armed conflict.

Colombia is marked by armed conflict, but outside of it, in domestic life violence against women is very high, and the issue of ICTs is overshadowed because there is no recognition of their potential to facilitate many forms of violence against women.

The challenge is to keep thinking and developing actions to spread the word on prevention of VAW and its relation to ICTs. In that sense, this project is essential for raising awareness about the issue.

(1) Olga P. Paz Martinez is administrative and projects coordinator at Colnodo.

(2) The baseline was developed by Diana Cristina Caicedo Naranjo. She is an attorney, graduate of the Universidad Externado of Colombia, with studies in Public Law and Social Management, human rights defender, and consultant on issues of Gender Justice for public and private agencies, women's organizations, and international aid agencies. She was a pioneer in the implementation of the Gender Justice Program in the Capital District of Bogotá. She currently serves as the legal representative of the organization Corporación Gea Jurisgeneristas (translators note: Organization Gaya, followed by a word that is a compound neologism meaning legal professionals that focus on gender issues).

(3) CEDAW requires states parties to take concrete steps to address discrimination, expressed in laws and public policies, so as to not only guarantee rights, but also the actual exercise of those rights. Furthermore, the Convention encourages the use of affirmative action, understood as temporary special measures applied to overcome inequality that disappear once their purpose is served. The Inter-American Convention to prevent, sanction and eradicate violence against the women, also known as the Convention of Belém do Pará, defines violence against the women, types and scope of violence, and establishes the responsibility of the State for attention, prevention, and punishment. This instrument has been become the basis of the laws regarding violence against women in Latin America. The Constitutional Court has ruled on the obligatory character of the recommendations issued by the committees of the international treaties signed by Colombia. What is particularly important is that this policy takes into account those that refer to issues related to women's rights and, in particular, those issued by the CEDAW Committee. The resolutions of the United Nations Security Council on Women, Peace and Security, as well as Resolutions 1325, 1820, 1888 and 1889, are also considered. It is also true that diverse international conferences of the United Nations system have generated action plans to incorporate a gender perspective and the rights of the women in development as the best way to overcome poverty, achieve equity, and ensure comprehensive human rights. The Colombian government has incorporated these proposals into its public administration. In recent years the Millennium Development Goals of 2000 and the Brasilia Consensus of 2010 have been particularly relevant. (Excerpted from the document written by Diana Cristina Caicedo Naranjo).

(4) The paper was prepared by Norma Constance Castillo Murillejo and Oscar Durán Ibatá. Norma Castillo graduated with a major in communications and is a journalist, teacher, and researcher at the Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano and at Universidad Los Libertadores in Bogotá, with a differentiated focus on gender, women, and trafficking. She is a member of the Colectivo ciudadano Por el Derecho de las Mujeres a una Vida Libre de Violencias (Citizen Collective for a Woman's Right to a Life Free of Violence) and la Red Académica Latinoamericana sobre Trata de personas (the Latin American Academic Network on Trafficking in Persons). Oscar Durán graduated with a major in communications and is journalist. He has a Masters in Education from the Universidad del Norte and is a Master's candidate in Journalism at the Universidad de los Andes. Social change organizer. Researcher, television producer, documentary filmmaker, script writer, film and television critic, and faculty researcher at the Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano in Bogotá. The report is available at

(5) ACPEM's objectives include:

1 - Ensuring the comprehensive and interdependent human rights of women and gender equality

2 - Strengthening the issue of women and gender in state institutions at a national and regional level.

3- Fostering spaces for connection with women's organizations and other civil society groups.

4 - Promoting the mainstreaming of a differentiated gender approach in public policies for the comprehensive care of people displaced by violence.

More information:

(6) Translator's note: in Spanish this is a play on words that means both I trust you and I trust ICTs.

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