Submitted Proposals

Organization: APC
Title :
Sexual rights and the internet - implications for internet governance [working title]
Provide a concise formulation for the proposed workshop theme including its importance and relevance to the IGF.
One of the most complex and controversial rubrics of internet governance is content regulation: Should content be regulated at all? If so, who defines what constitutes harmful content or content from which people should be denied access? Who is involved in developing policies and mechanisms that regulate this access? And what are the implications of these interventions for end-users´ rights?
The multiplicity of aspects and perspectives presented on these questions by various actors during last two IGF demonstrates that this topic deserves priority attention. Thereby this workshop is of direct relevance to the IGF.

In the last three years, the APC Women's Networking Support Programme (APC WNSP) have taken up issues related to content regulations, sexuality and the internet, especially in the context of women's rights. These debates (organised by APC WNSP during the Internet Governance Forum meeting in Athens and in Rio de Janeiro) brought together voices of key stakeholders (e.g. ISPs, feminists and international agencies), challenged definitions of harmful content (such as pornography or obscenity) and assessed the impacts of various content regulation policies and mechanisms on freedoms of expression, access to information and sexual rights of “vulnerable groups” - women and youth.

During those debates, three areas were prioritised for further research and discussion:

  • It is important that the debates around harmful content involves the diverse voices of end-users in their different political, social and civil contexts due to the complexity of the issue and concerns. To ensure acceptance of global regulations, ‘harmful content’ will need to conflate all forms of divergent understanding and practices to reflect different social-cultural context and values, and to simplify the acceptance of regulation.
  • Whilst acknowledging the need for regulation on child pornography, discussions on content regulation to date have become oversimplified and various kinds of content and practices had been excluded from debates (such as online harassment, eroticization of violence of women or torture of detainees and prisoners of war).
  • Current regulation practices that seek to prevent exposure to pornographic or other harmful content do not necessarily lead to lesser harm but inadvertently deny or limit freedom of expression or access to vital information on sexuality or health.
  • Regulations policies and mechanisms must evolve more organically and must take account of diverse values and socio-cultural practices of end-users. This could include forms of self-regulation within communities or individuals, or peer-to-peer monitoring practices.
  • The effectiveness of content regulation mechanisms and tools must be assessed from the point of transparency as well as accountability of the different actors working around content regulation.

This workshop will build on these conclusions, and explore the potential and effectiveness of self-regulation and informed internet use to address acknowledged security risks associated with “harmful” content while not limiting other human rights of end-user's, such as privacy, freedom of expression and access to information.

In particular, it will look at the relationship between content regulations on the internet and sexual rights of women and youth. Sexual rights embrace human rights that are already recognised in national laws, international human rights documents and other consensus statements. They include the right of all persons to seek, receive and impart information related to sexuality and sexual health.

APCWNSP is undertaking a 3-year cross-country research programme which will provide further insights on these and other key policy questions concerning the definition of harm in virtual spaces, the role of internet in promotion of sexual rights, and governance of the internet. The initial results of this work will be presented and further discussed at the workshop.




Provide the names and affiliations of the panellists you are planning to invite. Describe the main actors in the field and whether you have you approached them about their willingness to participate in proposed workshop.
The main actors in the field are governments and intergovernmental institutions (such as the COE); national and regional regulatory bodies; ISPs and private IT companies involved in content regulations; child rights and child protection groups; women's rights, sexual rights and communications rights advocates.

The workshop organisers are in discussion with or plan to approach representatives from all of these stakeholder groups. Especially, we want to ensure the participation of representatives of child protection groups and co-sponsors and speakers from our workshops in 2007 and 2006.
Provide the name of the organizer(s) of the workshop and their affiliation to various stakeholder groups. Describe how you will take steps to adhere to the multi-stakeholder principle, including geographical diversity.
The name of the organizer of the workshop is the Association of Progressive Communications (APC). The information to be presented and discussed will look at the issue from the point of view of a range of stakeholders.

Co-organisers are still being confirmed but are likely to include former co-sponsors (subject to confirmation) including the Council Of Europe, European ISPA and the Alternative Law Forum (India).
Does the proposed workshop provide different perspectives on the issues under discussion?
Yes. It is imperative to recognize the complexity of issues and perspectives on content regulation. The workshop will bring to the table diversity of voices, including children’s protection groups, sexual rights and communication rights advocates to discuss strategies and regulations that evolve more organically and take account of the values and socio-cultural practices of end-users living in different political, social, cultural and civil contexts. The effectiveness of such content regulation mechanisms and tools will be assessed from the point of transparency as well as accountability of the different stakeholders.

Further the participants will look at other strategies and measures that acknowledges online risks and enhance awareness while not promoting regulations. For example education campaigns directed towards parents and youth, have been effective.

In particular, we want to highlight the perspectives from India and other Asian countries.


Please explain how the workshop will address issues relating to Internet governance and describe how the workshop conforms with the Tunis Agenda in terms of substance and the mandate of the IGF.
The workshop will highlight the complex and multi-faceted nature of regulation, 'harmful content, freedom of expression and access to information and knowledge for all (paragraphs 42, 46 and 90 of the Tunis Agenda).

The workshop affirms the belief that the management of the internet should involve all stakeholders and relevant intergovernmental and international organizations, and specifically women, who are largely excluded from policy development around content regulation (paragraphs 35 and 37 of the Tunis Agenda).

The workshop will build on workshops in 2006 and 2007 and continue to propose the development of solutions to issues arising from the use and misuse of the internet, and everyday users' control over content they want to access, filter and produce with regards to various content regulation interventions and tools (paragraph 72k).
List similar events you and/or any other IGF workshops you have organized in the past.
IGF 2006: Harmful Content and Violence Against women

IGF 2007: Content regulation and the duty of States to protect fundamental rights
Were you part of organizing a workshop last year? Which one? Did you submit a workshop report?
Yes, as above. The report was submitted in 2007: