Participation in Cyber Stewards network reinforces Colnodo's work on tech-related violence against women

By Flavia Fascendini Publisher: APCNews     Pergamino,

Colnodo, APC member from Colombia and End violence: Women’s rights and safety online project partner, was accepted in 2012 to join the Cyber Stewards network of the Citizen Lab Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto and the Canada Centre for Global Security Studies.

The network organised a workshop that took place on 17-18 March 2013 and Olga Paz, representing Colnodo, took part in the meeting, of which the main theme was “Governance without government in cyberspace?” Sharing reflections on the meeting, Olga says, “To participate in the Cyber Steward workshop was a great opportunity to get to know the other projects, the different national contexts where the security on line is very limited and affected by the intervention of governments. The projects are aimed at the defence of freedom, the regulation of telecommunications, transparency and accountability, censorship, restrictions to access to internet, story telling, surveillance and other very interesting topics relevant to Colombia. The Cyber Steward workshop has contributed to identifying the topics to include in the diagnostic report on Colombia.”

Olga shares some emerging reflections on the Colombian case:

1. Control of the internet is more common that what you would imagine, even in countries with democratic systems.

2. Usually security agencies of countries are in charge of cybersecurity, but these agencies are not always transparent nor do they always work in defence of citizens.

3. Corporations and governments want to reign over the internet, control and survey the population using the internet. What is the role of citizens?

4. It is necessary to consider the boundaries between freedom and censorship, anonymity and privacy, and privacy and security.

In Colombia, research on emerging cybersecurity issues – especially academic research – is confined to technical issues. There is a shortage of information, diagnostics, analysis and sources when it comes to instances of censorship, threats or digital attacks against civil society organisations. It is interesting to note the growing use of social networks for the dissemination of information and especially for the revival of campaigns on issues of public interest that is taking place in the Colombian context. Cybercrimes related to e-commerce, online financial systems and e-government are now more recognised. However there are not many organisations working on the use, risks, censorship, surveillance and control of the internet and its contents.

In regards to violence against women (VAW) in Colombia, there is a legal gap regarding VAW and ICTs: there is neither legal regulation nor public policy about VAW related directly with ICTs. Therefore, it is necessary to appeal to the Human Rights Law in the Colombian Constitution and to International Treaties ratified by the Colombian government.

“It is necessary to promote among women organisations recognition of the use of ICTs to infringe upon women’s rights, VAW related to ICTs and possibilities to use ICTs to make campaigns on the topic,” states Colnodo’s post-workshop report.

Colnodo is developing a diagnostic report in Colombia that will provide an overview of the ways ICTs are used to carry out acts of violence against women activists and human rights defenders and to identify the impact on these women and their work. Development of the report will consist of researching and compiling data on attacks against women who are activists and are working for the defence of women’s and human rights in Colombia.

The content of the diagnostic report will include:

1. a juridical and conceptual framework about discrimination against women, violence against women, situation of defenders and activists women regarding the use of ICTs and cybersecurity;

2. the benefits of the ICTs for women’s organisations;

3. the use of ICTs as a way to commit violence against activist women and human rights defenders. Some modalities identified are: threats, psychological torture, infringement to the right to privacy, stealing of information, ways of controlling the life of women through ICTs, and the types of attack used by the Colombian State;

5. measures for preventing, eradicating and sanctioning violence against women; and

6. the effectiveness of the research and penal processes.

“The most important thing for me was that the workshop allowed me to widen my perspective on the subject of cybersecurity, censorship, [and] freedom of expression… It helped me to understand other forms of censorship or self-censoring, not only those more obvious, that are imposed by governments. Our project was the only one focusing on gender issues, so that made things even more interesting,” reflects a Colnodo member.

Paz adds that she considers it very important to share more information, documents, outputs and results of the projects in the charge of other cyber stewards. She would also like the network to share training materials, advocacy and communications resources.

All of these activities will strengthen and feed into Colnodo’s work in Colombia under the End violence: Women’s rights and safety online project.

Read more about “End violence: Women’s rights and safety online project”

Women’s rights and safety online: project partners granted to strengthen national work

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