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There is a Kenyan audio doing rounds on the Internet about a girl being withdrawing consent in what sounds like a pre-consented sexual encounter. A lot has been said about the violence in the video and I will not belabour that point. It does bring to mind the question of technology and violence against women (techvaw).
Violence against women is any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women. It includes threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life. (Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women Article 1)
Techvaw is the use of technology to perpetrate violence against women.
According to a study titled “Women and Cybercrime: the dark side of ICTs”, Kenyan women face some threats such as cyber stalking, hate SMS, blackmailing messages and public exposure of private communications. Other women who attain “celebrity” status through entertainment or politics face harsh criticism online that sometimes borders on hateful messages and indecent exposure. Many women therefore shy from fully expressing themselves online so as to preserve their privacy and dignity.
While some of the issues faced by women online are risks associated with use of computers, others are cybercrimes. Cybercrime is the use of computers or computer networks to commit crimes. Generally, cyber crimes are defined as crimes against government, crimes against property such as computers and networks and crimes against the person. Examples of crimes against the person are child pornography, cyber stalking, cyber harassment and hacking into personal accounts.
Policies and Laws
Kenya’s policy on Cybercrime is based on the Kenya ICT Masterplan (2013/14 - 2017/18). Specifics on cybersecurity, under which cybercrimes would be tackled are found in the National Cyber Security Strategy (2014).
The Constitution of Kenya has several provisions that relate to one’s security online. Article 31 guarantees the right to privacy while Article 29 provides for freedom and security of the person. These rights must be balanced against the freedom of expression (Article 33) and freedom of association (Article 36). The right of access to information (Article 35) may also be important in helping us study the extent to which cybercrimes affect women and how they are treated in the course of justice.
The famous section 29 of the Kenya Information and Communications Act (KICA) which outlaws the use of communication systems to send indecent, offensive, false and annoying messages among others is the most commonly known provision in cybercrime. It is mostly used to prosecute people who send threatening SMS although it has also been used to deal with annoying message senders.
There are other provisions on cybercrimes against the person such as section 84D of KICA (indecent exposure through use of computers) but these have not been widely used. Section 13 of the National Cohesion and Integration Act (hate speech) also applies to cybercrimes though it has not been well tested.
There is an initiative for development of a cybercrime law being undertaken by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. The proposed bill has received wide critique from different stakeholders. At the same time, the African Union Convention on Cybercrime and Data Protection (AUCCDP) which was adopted in June 2014 awaits ratification by AU members states and its provisions may be taken on in Kenya.
Cybersecurity initiatives were largely driven by private sector that bore the brunt of cybercrimes such as bank fraud or theft of important data. With increased uptake of Internet, social aspects of cybersecurity such as those described by the Dark Side of the Internet study and others have come to fore. Is there a sufficient case to include gender perspectives in the laws and policies on cybersecurity in Kenya?