In early 2020, Women of Uganda Network joined other digital human rights defenders from different parts of Uganda through the Ttaala program by Defend Defenders. Ttaala is a comprehensive skill building project for human rights defenders illuminating the world of digital tools and strategies through equipping different human rights defenders’ organization to survive and thrive defending human rights in the digital age while creating impact-driven projects to close the technical and strategic skills gap for the effective defense of human rights in the digital age.
A total of six organizations including; West Nile Web, Fit Clique Africa, Strategic Response International, Centre for Citizens Communications and Justice, and Advocacy for Child Relief were able to come together to attend three months training. Some of the topics covered during the three months’ training included; critical thinking, online content strategy, Monitoring, Documentation, and Reporting, Data analysis, creating digital surveys, digital security, social media platforms and management, video coverage, Mail Chimp, creating infographics using Canva, encryption, website, project management and social media analytics.
In February 2020, after a fun two days’ training, different project leads from the six organizations were gathered to record a short video of what they expect after a complete three trainings under the program. Different individuals shared exciting and interesting expectations that left the facilitators energized to complete the trainings. Click this to watch and learn about it: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1g-GqFwGNgBNrfER-7yqmkRd56SQlabLD/view?ts=5f7adb08
The trainings were conducted to enable different organizations with different projects to implement their project successfully. As an upshot of the trainings, Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET), from August 8 to September 8th, 2020, conducted a four week’s social media campaign on twitter, Facebook and Instagram on its Ttaala project with the hashtag #AskforConsent to create awareness on the understanding of nonconsensual intimate images (NCII) which is commonly known by the misnomer as “Revenge pornography” and advocate for change in the anti-pornography act 2014.
NCII is sexually explicit images and videos that are captured, published or circulated without the consent of one or more persons in the frame. NCII is a systemic and societal problem and not only a limited matter of “revenge” -- it ranges from voyeuristic neighbors to hidden cameras in hotel rooms. Ugandan law does not provide adequate redress to NCII victims and lacks gender-sensitive provisions to recognize NCII as violence and breach of privacy. In some instances, the law was used to punish the victims. The lack of consent is not a consideration in the legal and social treatment of NCII victims. Peace Oliver Amuge, the coordinator of WOUGNET, gave a contextual understanding of NCII in a video https://drive.google.com/file/d/1abGOyq3RVUuooNh-Lxo5BtntfAMAK8Lz/view including the Uganda’s policy environment.
The distribution of intimate images without consent from the women involved has been a prevalent issue in Uganda and yet little to no measures have been taken to end it. During the #AskforConsent campaign, NCII victim-- Judith Heard shared her perspective in a video of being a victim of “Revenge Porn”. She emphasized that an intimate picture does not stop being private when it gets to another person’s phone because it still belongs to the person in the picture. Public figures and celebrities aren't the only ones susceptible to non-consensual circulation of their intimate images. Click and watch: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1F6JK1ik8Pg0rPXtavbGlCkkAaMfL7AYG/view
It is important to therefore note that Consent, as is the case with any sexual encounter, needs to be FRIES. Images or videos or any kind of information should be Freely given, Reversible, Informed, Enthusiastic and Specific. This is why during our four week’s chat on #AskforConsent campaign, we were able to have online chats with key decision makers and internet users, and our online community, on what needs to be done to curb the continued circulation of Non-Consensual Intimate Images (NCII). Because very many women have faced revenge and cyber related violence for example 26 percent of young women aged 18-24 have been stalked online and 25 percent were the target of online sexual harassment.
In Uganda, section 13(1) of The Anti-Pornography Act 2014, criminalizes the production, trafficking, publication, broadcasting, procuring, importing, exporting, selling or abetting any form of pornography. This Act punishes the victim for the production of the explicit pictures/videos while the publication, broadcasting, trafficking are not looked at.
Non-consensual distribution of intimate images can have very devasting psychological effects on the victim such as paranoia, depression, or even suicide. Not only do women face trauma when their intimate photos and videos are leaked but additionally, women face a second form of trauma by being blamed for incidents in which they are the victims because of the unfavorable anti-pornography act. Victim blaming tends to be the common reaction to women's privacy being violated - whether the matter in discussion is sexual assault, street harassment and online harassment like leaking of intimate photos and videos. When Judith Heard’s images were leaked, during an interview by BBC Africa, it showed the fear and trauma that these inexcusable acts cause to the victims. It is therefore very important to create awareness such as #AskforConsent campaign and let the victims know we believe them.
Often when women face instances of sexual violence, the common message from the public is that one should simply report to the police. But questions like how effective is the police in not only protecting women from these incidences but also holding perpetrators accountable? Should be posed to the Uganda police. Women are more likely to experience intimate partner violence, including NCII, than men. Women are also more likely to experience social and professional shunning if they are the victim of distribution of Non-consensual Intimate Images. The 2013 anti-pornography bill spurred a range of attacks on women across Kampala in the form of being undressed in town, a vast increase in non-consensual release of explicit content and blatant cyber harassment. And yet the law is meant to protect and not facilitate violence.
Organizations such as FIDA Uganda, a women led organization offering legal services for the protection of the rights of women and children should provide synergies of how to provide more information on the legal action we can take against anyone circulating or threatening to circulate your explicit content. This is because victims of "revenge porn" might not have the economic capability to seek legal action and organizations such as FIDA Uganda can support them.
The campaign featured different organizations that provide support [digital, physical, psychosocial] to victims of distribution of Non-consensual Intimate Images. However, community support is needed for the positive effect on healing from trauma.
It is therefore very important to #AskforConsent before you click the SHARE button because privacy is a digital human right. Letowon Abdi Saitoti, the Senior Technical support at WOUGNET shared some highlights on this here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/13tK9sQTX8O9JfxsJfLxvcNT9oAWVOAQv/view