Accessing Justice for Image-Based Sexual Abuse A Challenge For Victims in Malawi

Accessing Justice for Image-Based Sexual Abuse A Challenge For Victims in Malawi

By the African Mechanism |

In 2015, I ran an online poll asking 100 Malawians if they considered the non-consensual distribution of intimate images, or ‘revenge porn’ (as it is known colloquially) a form of sexual violence. The response was a resounding YES. Here are some of the responses that were received: when asked whether it is acceptable to publish nude/intimate images or videos of someone without their permission, 74 respondents said no. When asked if they thought publishing nude/intimate images or videos of someone without their consent should be considered a form of violence against women, 60 out of 100 respondents answered, yes. Lastly, when asked what the best response to such violations should be, the respondents all pointed to the need for legal punishment for revenge porn.

This small online study was conducted when there was a complete gap in specific law to deal with online violence against women.  I avoid the use of the term revenge-pornography – we use the terms, non-consensual intimate image sharing (NCII) and more recent image-based sexual abuse (IBSA) to be more appropriate as these broaden the bases for privacy breaches and situate them firmly within the context of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). The majority of instances nudes are leaked by vicious ex-lovers who use these images or videos as a way of exacting revenge upon former partners; however, that is not the only narrative that exists in this form of violence.

There is one commonality to all these. Having one’s nude images or videos leaked online wreaks havoc in the lives of the victims; the majority of whom are women. Furthermore, the internet never forgets, nor does our Malawian society. Long after creating the content, usually within the “safety” of an intimate relationship, its non-consensual distribution irrevocably changes the lives of the subject (victims).

This article was first published by the African Feminism on June 05, 2020.

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