Nairobi, Kenya, Nov 16- Kenya still lacks adequate legal mechanisms to address Online Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (OSEA), a new report has revealed.
According to a report titled Stopping Online Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Women and Girls released by Equality Now, an international women’s rights organisation, while countries like Kenya have OSEA laws in place, lack of consistent legislation and internationally adopted laws have made obtaining legal recourse a challenge.
The report indicated that international and national laws are failing to keep pace with advancing technology noting that measures to prevent and detect OSEA have been mostly left to digital service providers and platforms, because of the different contractual, criminal, and private law obligations placed on them in different countries.
Tsitsi Matekaire, the Global Lead for Equality Now’s End Sex Trafficking programme said that perpetrators are taking advantage of the existing gaps to continue exploiting women and girls around the globe.
“In Africa, Kenya was a leader in internet uptake during 2020 and it is among the highest consumers of internet and digital technology on the continent. However, increased connectivity is also making it easier for online sexual exploitation and abuse to occur. Offenders are taking advantage of anonymity online and gaps in the law – especially when it comes to protecting women and girls – to exploit with impunity,” Matekaire said.
She further said that the outbreak of Coronavirus(covid-19) in 2020 prompted more people to spend time online which has led to the emergence of new forms of sexual exploitation such as image-based sexual abuse, live streaming of sexual abuse and child sexual abuse material.
Matekaire added that the laws currently in place in Kenya do not address the technological aspects of sexual abuse.
“Although Kenya has enacted some laws, such as the Penal Code, the Sexual Offences Act, and the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act, these laws do not address the technological aspects of sexual abuse, or emerging forms of online sexual exploitation, such as live streaming of abuse, sexual coercion and extortion, or online sex trafficking,” she said.
“The recently enacted Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act criminalizes child sexual abuse material but does not take into account these or other emerging forms,’ she added.
According to the Equality Now report, OSEA is growing at an alarming rate around the globe, but the full scale of the problem is not known because many cases go unreported due to victims blaming themselves and feeling shame, or being blamed and shamed by others, among other reasons.
“Victims also fear prosecution or retribution from perpetrators or that the authorities will not take their reports seriously. This lack of reporting contributes to the vicious cycle of abuse,” the report said.
The report further said that more attention is paid to monitoring online sexual abuse of younger children than of women, adolescents, and other groups.
Matekaire urged the Kenya government to review and update its laws and policies to fully protect vulnerable people from online sexual abuse and exploitation, and to strengthen national capacity to address the problem.
“It is encouraging that Kenya is establishing institutions such as the National Computer and Cyber Crimes Coordination Committee (NCCCC) and we believe that these institutions can better protect people from online sexual exploitation and abuse if there are clear laws and policies in place,” she stated.
She further called on Kenya to be on the forefront in pushing for adequate online sexual protection.
“Incoming up with solutions, we would also call on the government of Kenya to play a role in the development of a global response. Online sexual exploitation and abuse is a global problem that cannot be addressed only through siloed national responses,” she added.
Equality Now further called for comprehensive action from the international community, governments, and digital service providers to holistically address OSEA.
Some of the recommendations to the international community include; developing and adopting binding international standards, reviewing and update international and regional laws and instruments to ensure they are aligned to the reality of the digital age and
Conduct up-to-date research and analysis on OSEA.
The women’s rights organisation called on governments to review and update legislation and policies to fully protect vulnerable people from OSEA, Strengthen national capacity to address OSEA and collaborate with other key stakeholders including civil society organisations and digital service providers.
In regards to digital service providers, the organisation urged them to apply a human rights approach in policies and practices to protect users from harm and collaborate with other key stakeholders, including law enforcement agencies, civil society organisations, and governments
The report examined the law surrounding Online Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (OSEA) at the international and regional level.
It scrutinizes national laws in Kenya, alongside India, Nigeria, the United States, and England and Wales in the UK. It also features a selection of survivor stories.
It was produced with legal research assistance from TrustLaw, Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro-bono service, and was released jointly with TRF.
Issues examined include: online grooming; live-streaming of sexual abuse; Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM); online sexual coercion and extortion; online sex-trafficking; and image-based sexual abuse.
Equality Now is a legal rights organisation that focuses on using the law to protect and promote the rights of women and girls, and has an office in Kenya, where a lot of its work is focused.
Equality Now’s international network of lawyers, activists, and supporters work together to achieve legal and systemic change by combining grassroots activism with international, regional and national legal advocacy.
The organisation holds governments to account for enacting and enforcing laws and policies that end legal inequality, sexual and gender-based violence, sex trafficking, online sexual exploitation, and harmful practices such as child marriage and female genital mutilation.
It has made 66 expert submissions to the UN and regional bodies advocating for law and policy reform.
In 2020, 96,514 girls were positively impacted through legal change.