Technologically-Facilitated Violence Against Women and Girls: Can Canadian Criminal Law Respond?

Prof Jane Bailey1, Carissima Mathen
1University Of Ottawa Faculty Of Law

Technologically-facilitated violence against women (TFVAW) can take many forms, from school teachers secretly recording female students’ breasts with pen cams (R v. Jarvis) to vindictive ex-partners distributing intimate images of their former wives and girlfriends without consent to relentless stalking that sometimes involves threats of physical and sexual violence, and distribution of personal information exposing women to attacks by strangers (West Coast LEAF, 2015) to malicious use of home security and key stroke devices to surveil women in their own homes (Southworth, 2005).   The Canadian Criminal Code includes offences that appear to apply to many forms of TFVAW, including provisions related to hate propagation, criminal harassment, non-consensual disclosure of intimate images, uttering threats, intimidation, defamatory libel, identity fraud, extortion and unauthorized use of a computer (Bailey, 2016).  However, inadequate police responses, failures to prosecute and acquittals in cases such as Jarvis have led to questions about whether criminal law can adequately respond (Mathen & Bailey, 2016).

Framed within the context of prior feminist discourse around whether law is an effective tool for addressing VAW (in whatever form), this presentation analyses current stumbling blocks to effective use of criminal legal responses; and probes deeper into the underlying question of the kind of harms to which we are seeking responses and whether criminal law is an appropriate vehicle for addressing those harms.


Jane Bailey is a Full Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa where she co-leads The eQuality Project, a 7-year SSHRC funded partnership focused on the impact of online commercial profiling on youths’ identities and social relationships.  Jane leads the Project stream focused on cyberviolence and vulnerable youth.  Among her proudest professional achievements are co-leading The eGirls Project, creating and teaching a law course called Cyberfeminism and, appearing before the Supreme Court of Canada in the Jarvis voyeurism case. In fall 2018 she will be a Visiting Professor at Hong Kong University and at RMIT in Australia.


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