04 Feb, 2022
What’s gender got to do with it? The importance of mainstreaming a gender perspective when negotiating a global cybercrime treaty
Eileen Skinnider, Senior Associate, ICCLR*
Mention cybercrime in casual conversation and most of us think of ransomware, account hacking or credit card fraud. We think of recent news stories of Russian cyber gangs targeting US networks. And if we happen to think of gender, we think of women as victims of online gender-based violence, such as cyber stalking, revenge porn, ‘slut shaming’ or sextortion. This gives us an inaccurate picture. Gender shapes and influences online behaviour; is a factor in vulnerability; and impacts access to justice for victims of such crimes. Online gender dynamics reinforce or even intensify the gender inequalities that exist in the offline world. Like any crime, cybercrime can differently impact people based on their gender identity or expression. Cybercrime is not gender neutral and neither should our response to it be.
In May of 2021, the General Assembly adopted a resolution outlining the terms for negotiating a global cybercrime treaty. The resolution calls for a draft convention on countering cybercrime to be submitted to the General Assembly at its 2023 session. An Ad Hoc Committee is set to commence this task in 2022, and is intended to convene at least six sessions of 10 days each to undertake this work.
The international community has an excellent opportunity right from the start to ensure that a gender perspective is taken throughout the drafting process. By integrating a gender perspective in the development of a cybercrime treaty, we can illuminate important patterns within crime, and how it is differently experienced as based on gender, which in turn helps us to inform effective laws, policies and practices to prevent and combat cybercrime. A gender analysis asks questions to reveal underlying gender and power dynamics and differentials in any given situation.
- How gender influences different peoples’ experiences in relation to cybercrime.
- The extent to which gender shapes peoples’ roles in cyber gangs or hackers.
- Appreciate their experiences as perpetrators, victims and survivors of cybercrime.
- What works and doesn’t work in the prevention and response to cybercrime cases.
By fully understanding the phenomenon of cybercrime, we will be more able to effectively prevent and combat its activities and protect and support victims. Effective results will only be possible if the convention and subsequent national legislations, policies and practices use a gender lens that illuminates the many roles and experiences that women and men, girls and boys and people of all genders, including transgender people, non-binary people, and people with other diverse identities, have with cybercrime: as perpetrators who go through the criminal justice system as suspects, accused, or offenders; as victims and survivors who seek access to justice; and as criminal justice actors such as police officers, prosecutors and judges, who investigate, prosecute and adjudicate organized criminal cases. A nuanced understanding of how gender dynamics shape and influence laws, policies and practices in countering cybercrime is needed. Hopefully, a convention that recognizes the gender dimension of cybercrime will contribute to gender equality rather than maintaining or exacerbating existing inequalities.
There are a number of resources available to the Ad Hoc Committee and others involved in the drafting of the cybercrime treaty. One useful tool is the Gender Impact Assessment, which is an evaluation, analysis or assessment of a law, policy or programme that makes it possible to identify, in a preventive way, the likelihood of a given decision having negative consequences for the state of equality between women and men.
GA Resolution 75/282 “Countering the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes”.
European Institute for Gender Equality. 2016. “Gender Impact Assessment: Gender Mainstreaming Toolkit”.
* Eileen has developed and updated UNODC’s “Gender Mainstreaming in the Work of UNODC: Guidance Note for UNODC Staff” and Thematic Briefs in Mainstreaming Gender in the five thematic programme areas of UNODC. Most recently Eileen conducted a Gender Impact Assessment using the above toolkit of the Armenia Judicial Code and Derivative Legal Acts.
Photo by Sajad Nori on Unsplash.