12 | DIC | 2019
Mexico will punish 'revenge porn' with jail time
A revenge porn victims has been fighting to punish this crime for years - Photo: Dado Ruvic/REUTERS

Mexico will punish 'revenge porn' with jail time

17/11/2019
13:53
Reuters
Mexico City
Anastasia Moloney
-A +A
The majority of revenge porn victims are women, who often feel ashamed and humiliated by this heinous crime

When Olimpia Coral found a video of herself having sex online, she became depressed and attempted suicide several times, before vowing to outlaw revenge porn in Mexico.

She was 18 when the explicit video of her and her then-boyfriend was shared on social media and posted on porn sites in 2013. Her ex-boyfriend denies sharing it online.

“Everyone pointed the finger at me and judged and blamed me. I didn’t leave home for months. There was no place to run,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “You can’t forget this quickly. It’s like a tattoo you can’t rub off.”

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The victim couldn't seek justice since Mexico didn't have a specific law against revenge porn, sharing private sexual photos or videos without consent, which is a growing problem all over the world.

Britain, Japan, and several U.S. and Australian states have passed laws criminalizing revenge porn, and in March, Facebook said it would use artificial intelligence to remove accounts that share such images.

The victim, now 28, decided to fight back and launched a campaign to make digital violence a specific crime in every Mexican state.

In 2019, the “Olimpia” law, named after her, has been passed in 13 out of 32 states, with prison sentences ranging from three to 12 years depending on the state.

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Olimpia said she hoped revenge porn would soon become a crime all over the country as lawmakers debate a law that aims to legally define online violence, which could include revenge porn, threats, hate speech, stalking, and sexual harassment.

“The law aims to make visible, punish and to recognize the different forms of violence against women,” she said.

“It’s certainly not a panacea, but it’s a reform that’s been made from the victims’ perspective.”

Revenge porn, a crime against women

Most revenge porn victims are women and girls, targeted by current and former partners to distress, extort, or humiliate them. Strangers also hack into people’s devices and social media accounts to steal private images to post online.

“I see digital gender-based violence as a new way in which violence against women manifests itself,” said Lilia Giugni, head of GenPol, a UK-based gender equality think-tank.

Giugni said many people do not realize how damaging digital violence against women is because it happens in cyberspace, and affects women and men in different ways, with men attacked for political views while assaults on women tend to be personal.

“Digital violence is not seen as real violence and (...) it is not understood as a form of gender-based abuse,” she said.

Online violence against women, compared to the digital harassment experienced by men, tends to be overtly sexualized and motivated by gender,” said Giugni, who is also is a researcher at the University of Cambridge.

Giugni added that even when online violence is criminalized, law enforcement officers often don't appreciate its gravity.

“The problem so very often is that judges, lawyers, and police are not quite trained to see digital abuse against women as violence, and to apply legislation accordingly,” she said.

“They do not understand the impact (...) and they tend to dismiss it.”

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Sexism and misogyny in Latin America

Authorities in Latin America, where a sexist culture fuels widespread physical violence against women, are slowly starting to recognize and punish, digital violence.

A man in Colombia was arrested for child pornography and “violating personal data” this month after 15 women and girls said he secretly filmed them having sex without their consent and posted the videos online, Colombian prosecutors said.

A man in Peru was sentenced to almost five years in prison in October for sending abusive WhatsApp messages to his 16-year-old ex-girlfriend and for threatening to publish intimate images of her after she broke up with him.

It was the first conviction made in Peru under a 2018 law about online sexual harassment and marks an important precedent.

Data from Peru's' Women’s Ministry shows about 900 cases of online sexual harassment were reported in 2018, mostly by women aged 18 to 29, with nearly 80% taking place on Facebook.

For Olimpia, she hopes the new law will encourage more victims to come forward, seek justice, and not to feel shame.

“The fight is to tell women that they aren’t to blame,” she said.

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