World-over, technology mediated violence against women is growing to be a serious social problem. Women’s full and free participation in digital spaces presupposes a safe online environment, but going online seem to be fraught with the risk of violence for women. Governments, especially in countries in the global South, are yet to bring their laws and institutions up-to-speed, to effectively respond to this issue. Against this backdrop, IT for Change and the WWW Foundation initiated 'Online freedom for all = No unfreedom for women', a project that intends to trigger national-level policy dialogues on balancing the right to free speech online with women's right to freedom from technology-mediated violence, in India and Bangladesh. The project, launched in January 2017, seeks to address key gaps in existing legal-institutional frameworks on technology-mediated violence against women in the two countries.
Details and links for all reports and presentations developed under this project can be found below.
Technology-mediated violence against women in India. How can we strengthen existing legal-institutional response mechanisms?
January, 2017: Our discussion paper on the issue of technology-mediated violence against women analyses the adequacy of the current legal and institutional frameworks in India and proposes alternate models that need to be debated and analysed. The paper raises a series of questions on overhauling the existing legal framework, effectively addressing intermediary liability and strengthening law enforcement and other institutional mechanisms.
January, 2017: Our discussion paper led to the pre-consultation meeting organised in Bangalore in January 2017. A group of feminist scholars and practitioners came together at this meeting to review the discussion paper, debate the questions raised by it, and brainstorm on strategic directions to take this issue forward.
Writing wrongs or righting violations? – Unpacking the Supreme Court’s emerging stance on online censorship
March, 2017: This position paper looks at the issue of intermediary filtering in the context of two Supreme Court cases. The first was a petition filed by activist Sabu Matthew George in 2008, asking for a ban on advertisements on search engines related to pre-natal sex determination. The second case was a suo-moto PIL taken up by the Court in 2015, in response to women’s’ rights activist Sunitha Krishnan’s letter on the circulation ofn rape videos on social media sites. Our paper analyses these cases, alongside the arguments related to freedom of speech and the act of intermediary filtering of content, and argues for a more nuanced intermediary liability framework which acknowledges that all content cannot be treated equally.
March 2017: IT for Change also had the opportunity to present its research under the project at Majlis Legal Centre’s annual conference ‘Negotiating Spaces’. The conference focussed on analysing various facets, impacts and internal contradictions of online spaces, through a gender lens. The first presentation, ‘What's happening today to women's rights and citizenship?’ by Anita Gurumurthy, focussed on the network-data complex and its implications for women’s citizenship. In the second presentation, ‘Reading the content regulation debate in India: Questions on technology-mediated violence and the remit of the law’, Nandini Chami, raised key questions about the role of technological solutions in building a gender-inclusive online public sphere.