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 World Wide Web 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, sought to address key gaps in existing legal-institutional frameworks on technology-mediated violence against women in the two countries. This was the first phase of a sequence of projects that IT for Change participated in, with support from the World Wide Web Foundation.
Examining technology-mediated violence against women in India. Towards appropriate legal-institutional responses in India
This discussion paper argues that the omnipresence of the digital demands a re-evaluation of legal-institutional response to violence against women. The networked logic of the Internet, and social media platforms that overrun it bank upon virality, effectively rendering ineffectual notions of ‘consent’. The paper attempts to posit a feminist response to the disruptions of the digital that builds upon jurisprudence of dignity, equality and privacy drawn from global and national legal frameworks. Finally, it recommends that rather than piece-meal alterations to the existing law, the paradigmatic shifts ushered in by the digital, justify investing in a new law for technology-mediated violence against women.
Technology-Mediated Violence Against Women in India. How Can We Strengthen Existing Legal-institutional Response Mechanisms?
This 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.
Report of the Pre-consultation on Technology-Mediated Violence Against Women
The 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. This report summarises the key threads of this day-long process of sharing reflections.
Writing Wrongs or Righting Violations? Unpacking the Supreme Court’s Emerging Stance on Online Censorship
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 of 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.
Presentation at Majlis Legal Centre’s Annual Conference, ‘Negotiating Spaces’
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, focused 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.
Everybody, Offline. We Need to Talk
It’s the end of an era for online activism. We have lost our safe, small, intimate spaces of digital publishing to corporate giants, state-run troll armies, and idiotic online commentary. We must recognise that the politics and policing of this space have shifted under our fingertips and that we must re-strategise how we are going to play the hand if we are to win the war against patriarchy both online and offline. In this piece, Nadine Moawad offers eight points to advice to feminists and queer people organizing in digital spaces.
Tackling Women’s Digital Freedoms and Unfreedoms Online – Through Law & Technology
This opinion piece by NS Nappinai advocates a balance between the use of law and technology to redress online violence against women.
Equality, Dignity and Privacy are Cornerstone Principles to Tackle Online Violence Against Women
First published in LSE’s Women Peace and Security blog, this article discusses the need for a feminist jurisprudence on violence against women. Laws on online VAW draw from foundational ideas that have informed interpretations of gender-based (in) justice, recognizing the immersion of human society in digital experiences. There is a presence of historical imbalance of power between men and women where violence is used as discriminatory tool against women. ‘Harm’ to the body, mind or both is often seen as the ‘proof’ that violence has occurred. The language used by the law to address the issues relating to violence often puts the victim on the stand for their ‘morality’ to be assessed. An alternative theory of harm needs to be incorporated which is seen as a discriminatory practice impinging upon women’s dignity and violation of her right to privacy. Institutional intervention needs to be built upon the foundations of gender equality, dignity and privacy, as the core constituents of just societies in the digital age.
Details on the second phase of the project can be found here.
Submission on Online Violence Against Women to the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women
IT for Change contributed to the 'call for submission on online violence against women' by the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Ms. Dubravka Šimonović. The paper provides a state of play of the legislative, judicial and executive response to violence against women in India and highlights emerging good practices The submission provides an overview of legislative and judicial developments in India with respect to online violence against women. It offers an analysis of the government’s response to the issue thus far. Suggestions relating to the future course of action have also been made.
Comments from the IT for Change on the Draft Update for General Recommendation NO. (1992) on 8-8-Gender Based Violence Against Women
IT for Change made a submission to the Call for Comments on the draft update of General Recommendation No.19 (1992) on gender based violence against women, issued by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Our suggestions stress the need to account for the equivalence of the effects of offline and technology-mediated violence against women, when drafting legislative and institutional measures against gender-based violence.
The National Dialogue on Gender-Based Violence 2018
IT for Change and Advanced Centre for Women’s Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, organized a National Dialogue on Gender-based Cyber Violence between 1-2 February 2018 in Mumbai, India. In the current context where public debate on the issue is marked by one-off reporting of a few cases in the media and short-lived sensationalism, the National Dialogue aimed at facilitating a systematic stocktaking of the phenomenon from a gender equality perspective.
More details can be found at the project microsite here.