“Cybercrime through a gender lens: what does it mean, how do we deal with it?” - EL PAcCTO
Latin America / Cybercrime

“Cybercrime through a gender lens: what does it mean, how do we deal with it?”

21 July 2022

The classification of offences associated with cybercrime against women is a challenge for legislators and legal operators who must adapt and offer quick and effective responses to be able to prosecute these new crimes.

This is one of the conclusions of the online meeting that EL PAcCTO held with almost 300 representatives from police and judicial institutions of Latin America to address an issue that is having an ever increasing impact worldwide.

At the opening of the webinar, Jorge de la Caballería, Head of Unit, Directorate-General for International Partnerships of the European Community, asserted that “addressing these issues by sharing experiences is necessary because cyberspace facilitates all kinds of cybercrimes. Crimes that specifically affect women and girls such as trafficking, sextortion or sexting. We have international agreements in the field of cybercrime and the protection of women, but we must continue to work in a coordinated manner to address these issues and ensure effectiveness. As with all types of transnational crime, we have to work jointly.”

For her part, the director of the Spanish Guardia Civil, María Gámez, stated that “we must promote a culture of cybersecurity that enables us to deal with threats to society in general and to women in particular. We must get women more involved in these systems not only to prevent them from becoming perpetrators, but also to explore an emerging business model.”

Cybercrime with a gender approach

Cyberspace facilitates various forms of cybercrimes that particularly affect women and girls, such as trafficking, sextortion, or sexting. This type of crime would be grouped under the term “Gender-based Cybercrime” which is defined as gender-based violence that is carried out taking advantage of ICT. Normally, violence using ICT coexists with violence through “traditional” or “analogue” means. A specific gender approach is made necessary by the relational and psychological level of repercussion, the differences at the protection and judicial levels, and the peculiarities of electronic evidence.

For this reason, coordination between national and regional institutions and at the level of the two regions (Latin America-EU) is essential to deal with this crime that affects women and girls around the world. In the webinar organised by EL PAcCTO, legislative shortcomings in the field of cybercrimes were highlighted. Especially, with regard to crimes of violence against vulnerable groups on networks.

Success stories with regard to cybercrime and gender

One success story which we can find is the convention on cybercrimes, or the Budapest Convention, which has been in force since 2004. It is the first international treaty that seeks to tackle cybercrime and Internet crime by harmonising laws among nations, improving investigative techniques, and increasing cooperation among signatory nations. It is the only binding international instrument on this subject. It is intended as a guide for countries to develop comprehensive and aligned national legislation against cybercrime.

In Latin America, best practices include the Mexico’s Olimpia Act (the first law that recognised digital violence as one of the types of gender-based violence of which women are victims) and Argentina’s Micaela Act, which requires public servants to be trained in gender issues.

Lines of work on cybercrime

Other conclusions from the webinar which will be considered by EL PAcCTO to identify common lines of work between the two regions are:

  • The promotion of best practices in institutions, such as in investigation, processing, content removal, preservation of evidence or assessment and admissibility of digital evidence (including across borders)
  • Improving coordination among institutions and among thematic units of cybercrime, organised crime and gender, as well as at the international level, to strengthen the unification of regulations among countries
  • Promotion of education in the specialised areas of justice and security forces, and in society in general
  • The provision of comprehensive care to victims to include psychological care, as well as promoting access to justice.
  • The conducting of awareness raising actions to prevent the normalisation of violence in the media and victim blaming.

EL PAcCTO and its work on cybercrime

Since its inception, EL PAcCTO has promoted several initiatives related to cybercrime.

An example is the promotion of multidisciplinary cooperation between police networks and networks of specialised justice agents, particularly within CiberRed, the AIAMP prosecutors’ network. In this context, the CibEL Network@, created by EL PAcCTO in 2020, comprises specialised police officers in the fight against cybercrime in Latin America and the European Union, and covers the various criminal phenomena around this issue. In March 2022, this network launched the communication and public awareness campaign “FakeCoins: Cryptocurrency scams”. The aim was to raise public awareness regarding the most common scams identified in 17 countries in Latin America and the European Union.

The promotion of the creation of specialised prosecutor’s offices in Bolivia, Ecuador, Panama and Peru is another example. An initiative that it is also intended to extend to Guatemala and Uruguay.

EL PAcCTO is also working in synergy with other programmes in the field such as CyberNet and GLACY+ and with organisations such as Eurojust, Europol, the European Cybercrime Judicial Network, Ameripol and the Ibero-American Judicial Summit, promoting bi-regional dialogue.

In its efforts to mainstream the gender perspective, EL PAcCTO has detected some demands in Latin America. Some of them are to “include the gender approach in the fight against organised crime in Latin America in cybercrime, in the protection of victims and in women taking the lead in the fight against crime”.