Hate proliferates online with profound, measurable effects on women and other vulnerable groups. Amnesty International found that an abusive tweet is sent to a woman on Twitter every 30 seconds, including threats of murder, rape, and the use of misogynistic slurs.
LEAF intervened in a key Supreme Court decision concerning voyeurism, emphasizing the gendered nature of the crime. We are advocating for government regulations to address online hate speech and cybermisogyny more generally.
Learn more about cybermisogyny and our efforts to combat cybermisogyny below.
What is Cybermisogyny?
The proliferation of technology has changed our society in both positive and troubling ways. Among the more pernicious consequences is men’s use of technology to engage in manipulation, control, and sexual violence against women, and the proliferation of all forms of misogyny and gender-based violence online, referred to as “cybermisogyny.”
Technology is changing the landscape for women’s safety from violence and is being used to undermine women’s equality rights. While the abuse, control, and sexual exploitation of women is not new, new technologies (and the different platforms on which information can be tracked and shared) have created new and dangerous (and too often anonymized) ways to commit these acts. This is a significant problem; if we fall behind in regulating technology, we risk seeing the many (though insufficient) legal gains made to eliminate violence against women lost to technological changes that are seemingly difficult to contain, once adopted.
LEAF is concerned with the proliferation of misogyny and gender-based violence in the on-line world. In particular, we are troubled by how technology is being used to manipulate, control, and disseminate sexual violence against women. This growing problem requires a principled feminist response. That’s why LEAF is working on conducting research on Cybermisogyny to support and inform our law reform efforts and potential upcoming interventions concerning cybermisogyny.
What is the Cybermisogyny Project?
While cybermisogyny takes many forms, LEAF’s work in this area has largely focused on image-based sexual violence, which forms a logical starting point for the task of regulating technology through the lens of women’s equality.
LEAF’s cybermisogyny project is bringing together feminist lawyers and academics to conduct research and prepare a report imagining legal responses to technology-facilitated violence against women that are informed by equality principles.
The 2020 Cybermisogyny Advisory Committee members are:
Gillian Hnatiw, Moira Aikenhead, Jane Bailey, Suzie Dunn, Karen Bellehumeur, Nathalie Léger, Raine Liliefeldt, Karen Segal, Molly Reynolds, Paniz Khosroshahy, Kat Owens, Megan Stephens, Pam Hrick, Rosel Kim and Nicole Biros-Bolton.
In addition, Cynthia Khoo is working with LEAF as the Cybermisogyny Project Researcher to support and inform our law reform efforts and potential upcoming interventions concerning cybermisogyny. Khoo’s research will result in a research report that will be publicly available in September 2020.
What cases has LEAF intervened in concerning Cybermisogyny?
R v Jarvis
On February 14, 2019, the Supreme Court released its groundbreaking decision in Jarvis, which will contribute to the advancement of women’s and girls’ equality in the digital age. At issue in the case is whether a male high school teacher who used a camera pen to secretly film his female students’ cleavage committed the criminal offence of voyeurism, found in section 162 of the Criminal Code.
LEAF intervened at the Supreme Court, urging the Court to apply an equality lens to the interpretation of the voyeurism provision, which takes into account the highly gendered nature of this crime. LEAF advocated for a broad and contextual definition of “circumstances that give rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy”, which recognizes women’s reasonably held privacy expectations in both private and public places and provides meaningful protection for women’s sexual integrity in public life.
LEAF is pleased that the Supreme Court has recognized that voyeurism is a violation of sexual integrity and is hopeful that future decisions will continue to recognize the equality harms that image-based sexual violence causes women and girls. R v Jarvis will act as a critical precedent in future cases, as technology enables new forms of violence against women to emerge.
LEAF acknowledges the support of:
The Canadian Bar Association’s Law for the Future Fund
The Pilot Fund for Gender Equality, which is supported by a collaboration between Community Foundations of Canada and the Equality Fund, with support from the Government of Canada