IGF 2019 WS #79 Gender Equality, Human Rights & Online Participation

Organizer 1: Kim Barker, Stirling Law School
Organizer 2: Olga Jurasz, Open University Law School

Speaker 1: Kim Barker, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Olga Jurasz, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Gabrielle Bardall, Civil Society, Intergovernmental Organization

Policy Question(s): 

1) Who has responsibility for addressing gender inequalities online?

2) What international / UN action should / could be taken to address gender inequalities online?

3) Are SDGs a helpful framework for achieving this?

4) What factors should be driving policy at an international level to tackle gender inequality online?

5) How do we ensure that Internet governance processes are truly inclusive? What needs to be done to enhance the capacity of different actors (and especially those in developing and least-developed countries) to actively contribute to such processed and whose responsibility is it?

Relevance to Theme: The rise of online feminist activism has been a catalyst for driving attention globally to issues concerning women and their everyday experiences of violence and harassment – both online and offline. The Internet, and in particular social media platforms, have also been places of political struggle and protest for many women who otherwise would have been unable to speak out about public and political issues. However, at the same time, women who participate online face various forms of violence – predominantly in text-based forms – including online misogyny. Such acts severely affect women’s rights to equal participation in the public sphere – taken here to include mean the online public sphere – on an equal basis with men. These forms of abuse of women create significant obstacles to women’s equal participation in public and political life – which is one of the key values of democratic society, but also essential to achievement of SDG 5.

This workshop will explore critical questions concerning the presence and participation of women online, and will address each of the policy questions intended to make recommendations that will contribute to meaningful change.

Relevance to Internet Governance: This workshop addresses a critical issue facing users of the Internet in the social media age. The use of the Internet has evolved to mean that non-engagement and non-use of the Internet is a factor which leads to the exclusion of all persons from the equality of participation. As such, where violence against women, and violence against women in politics is perpetrated in online forms, this has the effect of silencing women, reducing their participation online, and forcing them offline. This is deeply damaging to participatory rights. Given the levels of abuse suffered by women online, the phenomenon of abuse is manifesting itself as a form of silencing, and is threatening the equality of participation online. Moreover, new norms of behaviour, and principles are prevalent. Governance entities, stakeholders, and platforms all need to play a part producing a set of norms, rules and decision-making procedures that will tackle this problem. This workshop will directly discuss these points, and will pave the way for change.

Format: 

Round Table - U-shape - 90 Min

Description: In a joint statement by the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Freedom of Expression, it was stated that: "The internet should be a platform for everyone to exercise their rights to freedom of opinion and expression, but online gender-based abuse and violence assaults basic principles of equality under international law and freedom of expression. Such abuses must be addressed urgently, but with careful attention to human rights law." Private sector actors, including internet service providers and social media companies, often fail to act in cases of online GBV. Violence against women in politics (VAWP) online, and online violence against women (OVAW) more broadly is an especially damaging violation of internet freedom, because it is intended to silence women’s voices and prevent them from exercising their civic and political rights.This session will address key policy questions relating to tackling this pernicious, and exclusionary harm, including:

1) Who has responsibility for addressing gender inequalities online?
2) What international / UN action should / could be taken to address gender inequalities online?
3) Are SDGs a helpful framework for achieving this?
4) What factors should be driving policy at an international level to tackle gender inequality online?
5) How do we ensure that Internet governance processes are truly inclusive? What needs to be done to enhance the capacity of different actors (and especially those in developing and least-developed countries) to actively contribute to such processed and whose responsibility is it?

The session will start with brief statements from panellists, before opening up to a wide-ranging debate with shared experiences, solidarity and discussions relating to practical measures and policy recommendations that can be acted upon to create lasting, and meaningful change.

Expected Outcomes: Violence against women online is one of the newest violations of human rights and internet freedom to be recognized by the United Nations. By sharing the latest research and legal policy responses, this panel will raise awareness of this issue among a key audience that might otherwise not be exposed it. Bridging the space between "traditional" human rights advocacy and frontline digital activism, the panel is intended to provoke brainstorming, idea-sharing and solidarity.

Onsite Moderator: 

Kim Barker, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator: 

Kim Barker, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Rapporteur: 

Kim Barker, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Discussion Facilitation: 

The session will start with brief remarks by the speakers from their different areas of expertise. That will pave the way for an open-ended discussion involving participants from the floor in a wide-ranging panel focussing on all aspects of online violence against women / online violence against women in politics. This sessions will prioritise the sharing of experiences and expertise to come together with a collaborative list of defined steps which will be framed as policy recommendations. The session will be led and facilitated by the speakers but is designed to offer a voice to all within a safe space on this topic.

Online Participation: 

Usage of IGF Tool

SDGs: 

GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-Being
GOAL 5: Gender Equality
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities
GOAL 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions