Criminal law and public policy reform to protect sexual privacy in the digital age

María Rún Bjarnadóttir is a Doctoral Researcher in the School of Law whose research addresses the impact the internet has on the obligation to protect privacy under the European human rights framework.

Her thesis uses a mixed methodology that includes: doctrinal legal analysis, domestic and international law, academic theory, analysis of cases from 2008-2019 and interviews with the Icelandic police, Europol, prosecutors and NGOs in the field.

Bjarnadóttir’s work is improving measures on online sexual violence prevention and protection in Iceland in a number of ways:

  • Based on her research, Bjarnadóttir was commissioned by the Icelandic Prime Minister’s Office in October 2018 to write a report on image based sexual abuse in Iceland and propose reform. The report included findings from UK and Danish NGOs and victim support groups. Preliminary findings were presented to stakeholders including MP´s, Prosecutors, and Victim Support Staff etc. · The final report was published in January 2020 and included twofold recommendations for policy and law, covering: legislative amendments; prevention and education; improvements in the handling of cases within the judicial system; and support for victims.
  • Bjarnadóttir was subsequently commissioned by the Minister of Justice to draft legislation which became the Sexual Privacy Act, amending the General Penal Code, and which was enacted into law on 17 February 2021. The Act strengthens the criminal protection of privacy and expressly defines violations of sexual privacy as a sexual offence.
  • In 2020, policy recommendations based on Bjarnadóttir’s recommendations were introduced in the National Action Plan on Prevention against sexual abuse of children and young people with further policy implementation planned by public authorities.

Media coverage of Bjarnadóttir’s work includes:

VISIR 26 September 2020

STUNDIN 17 August 2020

RUV 12 February 2020

Frettabladid 10 February 2020

VISIR 18 February 2019

Bjarnadóttir is the Chair (and Gender Equality Rapporteur) for the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on Hate