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Assessing the Capacity in Eastern and Southern Africa in addressing Cyber Crimes on Sexual and Gender Based Violence

Research indicates that serious cyber-crimes in the region are not accompanied by a corresponding increase in either prosecution or conviction. In fact, many investigations fail to take off. This is attributed to lack of institutional capacity, challenges and cooperation between law enforcement agencies and information communication technology service providers, trans-jurisdictional barriers, victimology and the inability of key stakeholders in criminal justice systems to grasp fundamental aspects of technology aided crime.

According to the United Nations Women, it is estimated that 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives. However, some national studies show that up to 70 per cent of women have experienced physical and or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime. The Population Council states that in South Africa, 7 per cent of 15 to 19 year olds had been assaulted in the past 12 months and 10 per cent of 15 to 19 year olds were forced to have sex against their will. In rural Tanzania, 47 per cent of ever-partnered women have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner while 31 per cent have ever experienced sexual violence.

How can the institutions that assist victims be more accessible, how can justice for the victims be reached across our region? The just concluded SIASIC conference brought together experts from international organisations, judiciaries, government, law enforcement agencies, human rights institutions, civil society organisations, academics, the private sector and the media to discuss these pertinent issues that affect us all.

In the lead up to this conference, a survey was done to understand the legal capacity of institutions across the region and their ability to respond to cyber-based SGBV crimes. The survey intended to assess the skills, capacity and understanding of cyber-based offenses by law-enforcement, prosecutors, judges, and legal practitioners in Eastern and Southern Africa. The survey also sought to assess their understanding of the transnational, trans-jurisdictional issues on cyber-based SGBV.

On the first day of the conference, the “Who is Who in addressing Sexual and Gender Based Violence” which is a one stop free database for all relevant information on matters SGBV was also launched. This website has made efforts to collate organisations that offer assistance from counselling to health checks to prosecution in 13 African countries.

During this conference, other than creating awareness of this issue, various ideas of law and procedural reforms were discussed, such as the training of police officers and prosecutors on being more sensitive with victims of gender based violence in order to encourage other victims to report similar cases of violence perpetrated. Reforms on the law were also discussed, such as reformed laws on cyberspace crimes and gender based crimes in Kenya that do not only favor one gender.

It will take a while before the laws that are now in discussion come into play, but it is important that the discussions continue and that people become aware of the dangers of cyber-crime and SGBV.

Justice Ann Williams, retired United States Circuit Judge, “The state has a duty to prevent online SGBV through change in societal attitudes. We have to use the internet for our benefit and educate the public”

Based on her global experiences, Justice Joyce Aluoch, Judge at the International Crimminal Court added, “I would like to underscore the importance of States’ ratification of the Rome Statute and incorporation of the Statute’s provisions into domestic legislative systems, in order to join efforts with the International Criminal Court (ICC) to end impunity for sexual and other gender-based crimes.”

Luis Francheschi, Dean, Strathmore Law School adds “The universality of human rights is construed upon the person’s humanity, which makes him or her the owner of a dignity and carrier of a unique self-value. This dignity is not granted by the State; it is not a legal or a mental category. It is a reality according to nature, regardless of race, sex, religion, origin, level of education or cultural practices.”

About SIASIC

This is a research Institute under Strathmore Law School with a mandate to strengthen the rule of law by strengthening the capacities of criminal justice professionals in Kenya and regionally. This is done through capacity-building trainings, applied research, and academic teaching. Further, the Institute strives to accomplish our goals by fostering cooperation among stakeholders to harness synergies and build bridges across academia and practice.

About International Nuremberg Principles Academy

This foundation is dedicated to the promotion of international criminal justice and human rights and the mission to promote the universality, legality and acceptance of international criminal law. Besides interdisciplinary and applied research, the Nuremberg Academy offers specialized capacity building and training to enhance the capacity of practitioners to deal with challenges related to international crimes by using innovative approaches in the field of international criminal law and related human rights.

About Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung (KAS).

To promote freedom and liberty, peace, and justice. We focus on consolidating democracy, the unification of Europe and the strengthening of transatlantic relations, as well as on development cooperation. As a consulting agency, we soundly research scientific fundamental concepts and current analyses that are meant to offer a basis for possible political action.

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