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Combatting cyber-related gender-based violence in spotlight

Read time 3min 20sec

The South African Police Services (SAPS) has collaborated with the Attorney General Alliance Africa (AGA) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to provide capacity-building workshops on technology-facilitated gender-based violence.

AGA organises workshops, seminars and conferences globally, aimed at sharing knowledge, experiences and training to develop and strengthen both the human and institutional capacity required to combat transnational crimes.

AGA prosecutors and facilitators from across the US, together with UNODC representatives, have been hosting daily workshops, this week in Johannesburg.

The workshops, officially opened by major general Bafana Linda, head of Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Investigations at SAPS, are attended by prosecutors from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and SAPS officers from all nine provinces.

Participants learn how to identify, investigate and prosecute GBV cases which are perpetuated by Internet use, including cyber bullying, cyber violence and online harassment. They are also taught the effects of emerging technologies in both evidence collection and perpetuating gender-based crimes, throughknowledge-sharing on the tools and techniques used in the detection, investigation and prosecution of GBV incidents.

According to a report from the International Centre for Research on Women, technology-facilitated GBV is on the increase worldwide.

“AGA-Africa, through this workshop, aims to strengthen the ability of SAPS and NPA to investigate and prosecute gender-based violence that stems from the misuse and abuse of technology,” explains Kim Robinson, CEO of legal advisory firm Renaissance Strategic Solutions, which is involved in the workshops.

“Sessions include definitions of gender-based violence and cyber crime; prevention of these crimes; understanding the misuse of technology; learning about Internet architecture, such as the dark Web, Internet relay chat, news groups and social media platforms; evidence collection and capture; analysis of digital images and e-mail; investigating online content regarding child abuse, child pornography and cyber stalking; victim support; and interagency collaboration.”

Next week marks the start of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, where additional projects and initiatives will continue, notes Robinson.

According to AGA, the workshops are consistent with president Cyril Ramaphosa's weekly newsletter in which he wrote that GBV is a national crisis and in response has initiated an Emergency Action Plan to combat the scourge.

Modern technology is continuously being used to create spaces where women feel marginalised and threatened, based on their gender, with increasing GBV incidents that stem from extreme misogyny in cyber space.

Markus Green, AGA board member, notes the global increased focus on detecting, investigating and prosecuting GBV and cyber crimes has placed added pressure on the legal system to assess responsibility and appropriately punish perpetrators.

“I cannot emphasise enough the need to globally collaborate to fight transnational criminal activities, through developing effective capacity-building programmes on ways in which cyber crime and modern technology is related to GBV and other transnational crimes as a whole.”

This week, SAPS formed a partnership with Facebook, aimed at fighting the scourge of kidnappings and missing children in SA.

Facebook will soon activate its Amber Alert for Missing Children functionality in SA, aimed at helping families and authorities to successfully recover missing children.

Once missing children have been reported to the police, the Amber Alert can be activated by police, sending information to the Facebook News Feeds in targeted search areas, after a child has been abducted.

“Facebook works with law enforcement and partners in many countries to distribute Amber Alerts on Facebook so that critical information about missing children can reach people in the designated search area as quickly as possible. We will release the full details about the rollout of Amber Alerts in SA soon,” says a Facebook spokesperson.

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