Today, (Friday, 25th November 2022), the government has announced new offences to tackle image-based sexual abuse, taking forward several of the Law Commission’s recent recommendations to strengthen protections for victims.
- Repealing and replacing current legislation with new offences to simplify the law and make it easier to prosecute cases. This includes a new base offence of sharing an intimate image without consent and two more serious offences based on intent to cause humiliation, alarm, or distress and for obtaining sexual gratification.
- Creation of two specific offences for threatening to share and installing equipment to enable images to be taken.
- Criminalising the non-consensual sharing of manufactured intimate images (more commonly known as deepfakes).
Andrea Simon, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), said:
“EVAW has long called for any sexual offence to be focused on consent rather than the intent of the perpetrator, as this loophole has consistently enabled perpetrators to get away with image-based sexual abuse without facing any consequences. We stand with all victims who have been let down by the law.
However, these new offences don’t go anywhere near addressing the broad and wide ranging violence facing women and girls online. This can only be done by requiring the tech companies that profit from this violence to comply with regulations that prioritise preventing and responding appropriately to this abuse, specifically through mandating a Violence Against Women and Girls Code of Practice.
The Online Safety Bill must take a broad, not piecemeal, approach to tackling violence against women and girls if it hopes to meaningfully prevent it as well as ensure the law is future-proofed to deal with new forms of tech-enabled abuse that may emerge.
Criminal offences alone will not solve the issue of violence against women and girls – online or offline. We are already facing a crisis of confidence in policing and a broken criminal justice system that is stacked against survivors. What we need is more investment in preventing this violence in the first place – through education and public campaigns and by legally requiring tech companies to use the software they already have to identify, address and prevent abuse.”
Along with our partners Carnegie UK, Glitch, Refuge, the NSPCC, 5Rights Foundation, Professor Clare McGlynn and Professor Lorna Woods, the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) has been campaigning for the government to introduce a Code of Practice on violence against women and girls with the Online Safety Bill – so that tech companies are held to account for preventing and addressing this violence in a comprehensive and systematic way.
EVAW and Glitch’s petition calling on the government to include women and girls in the Bill has amassed over 60,000 signatures.
Sinead Geoghegan, Communications Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org 07960 744 502