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This report emerges from research carried out in Mexico between November 2013 and April 2014 by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) as part of a multi-country project entitled “End violence: Women’s rights and safety online”.

Mexico is a country of contradictions. On the one hand, several laws and treaties protecting the rights of women have been signed and ratified, whereas on the other hand, women’s rights are violated across all sections of society. Mexican society does not typically view men and women as equal, and this inequality is reflected in families, schools, workplaces, and communities. In this context, technology has introduced another contradiction: it has enabled new and powerful means of communication and access to information, but it has also led to new ways in which violence against women (VAW) is perpetuated.

The report uses four in-depth case studies to explore how technology is used to perpetuate VAW. Alongside findings from the case studies, the report contains a mapping of Mexican legal instruments and the policies of corporate intermediaries. Data for the report was gathered through interactions with women survivors of VAW (and in the case of a minor girl, the social worker responsible for the case), interviews with intermediaries, conversations with social workers, and a roundtable with human rights experts. In its analysis the report specifically highlights women’s voices and agency, and places an emphasis on their experiences and strategies.

The report finds that in all four cases, technology was central to increased and consistent aggression that would otherwise not have been possible. Survivors’ stories evidence how psychological violence can evolve into physical or sexual violence, and how technology can allow aggressors to remain anonymous, thus giving them greater power over women.

Women experienced physical, economic, sexual and psychological harms as a result of technology-related VAW, including fear, isolation, the loss of personal relationships and reduced mobility.

In general, women were poorly informed about the internet and social networks, and were unaware of how they could be harmed in these spaces. However, though all the survivors limited or censored their use of technology following the abuse, they did not believe that technology was to blame for the violence.

In its mapping of internet intermediaries’ policies, the report finds that the larger the service, the fewer the policies they have about violence. In general, the policies of all intermediaries including local internet services, web browsers and social media networks providers lack a clear gender perspective and do not directly address gender discrimination and violence.

A closer look at Mexican law found that while abundant national legislation on VAW has been ratified, it is applied inconsistently at state and local levels. Parties responsible for justice either circumvent or disregard the law entirely, acting in accordance with their own patriarchal traditions. Meanwhile, ICT legislation is in its infancy and does not cover the various types of digital violence women face.

Aside from legislative failings, social, administrative and institutional challenges also create barriers to women accessing justice. These range from a lack of personnel who specialise in VAW, the prejudices of authorities in charge, and a lack of resources. In general, the report finds that although the survivors of technology-related VAW found ways to curb the violence, they did not have real recourse to justice.

The report concludes with a series of recommendations to prevent and address technology-related violence against women in Mexico. These include improved federal legislation on VAW, a revision of local criminal codes, increased training on gender equality at all levels of public administration, and a call to intermediaries to improve their policies and complaint procedures, and adopt a stronger gender perspective. The report also advocates for a new culture of technology and a broader, cross-societal gender awareness, so that VAW can stop being positioned as a matter of morality and instead be seen as an issue of discrimination and as part of human rights violations throughout Mexico.

This research is part of the APC “End violence: Women´s rights and online safety” project funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGIS).

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