IGF 2020 WS #181 Digital divide as gender based violence during COVID-19


Organizer 1: Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Organizer 2: Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Speaker 1: Valeria Betancourt, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 2: Xianhong Hu, Intergovernmental Organization, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Datta Bishakha, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group


Round Table - Circle - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

How do we manage the social inclusion within the community affected with technology, as the ICT could bring the change in their social relation?

The aim of the session is to identify digital gender divide as a form of violence and a matter of life and death in the wake of the healthcare emergency posed by the COVID-19 outbreak.


GOAL 5: Gender Equality
GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities


Digital divide is a well-documented reality of the world, where corporations are attempting to bridge the gap by ‘connecting the next billion’ through various concentrated efforts to get people on the internet. Privacy and concerns of justice aside, these corporate projects identify a problem that affects most of the population of the world on multiple levels. Where everyone not yet connected to the digital world is affected by the digital divide, its implications are far intense in the context of women and gender and sexual minorities. The internet and access to it is increasingly being acknowledged as a human right, but women in South and Southeast Asia continue to suffer due to the lack of this right given various underlying causes either rooted in patriarchal notions of the society projecting violence through barring them from owning a mobile phone or accessing the internet with freedom, or affordability is a challenge. Regardless, the urgency to provide access to the internet to them was not materialised until a healthcare emergency hit the world when it became the primary source of communication for people. The intensity of violence that they are witnessing now has increased because what was once used to be only getaway from the abuse in the form of support groups on the internet is barred on them; what was once a hope for help is inaccessible because the abuser resides with them 24 hours a day, seven days a week as the countries employ lockdowns to contain the spread the virus; and what was once a way for them for economic independence is now unavailable on them. This session will explore the gendered implications of the digital divide in various countries during the Covid-19 outbreak. The discussion will look at how what was once considered a result or stem of injustice and violence against women and gender and sexual minorities, is now emerging to be a matter of life and death when access to the internet also means access to the basic precautionary information to avoid getting infected by the virus. The aim is to identify the issues faced by various communities in the absence of access to the internet, how their implications intensify when a gendered perspective is added, and what needs to be done on community, corporate and policy level keeping in view the state of emergency the world currently is in.

Expected Outcomes

The expectation from this session is to collectively work towards policy recommendations to ensure that internet access is provided to women and gender and sexual minorities without the abuse of power inflicted on them by their abuser, patriarch, society or the states. This process is ongoing, and further interventions will be done with the speakers and participants of the sessions to achieve the outcome, or to move in the right direction.

35 minutes have been dedicated to the discussion, while 20 minutes are dedicated for audience questions, and the last 5 minutes for the moderator to conclude and share way forward.

Relevance to Internet Governance: Access to the internet is increasingly seen as a basic human right, however this right remains unavailable for many individuals, especially for women and gender and sexual minorities. Discussions on safe and inclusive internet are part of the larger discourse of internet governance, and digital divide is one of the issues that constantly comes up. With its implications becoming evident during a global pandemic, the relevance of this issue is amplified, and hence the need for policy intervention to ensure safe and inclusive access to women and gender and sexual minorities has also increased.

Relevance to Theme: The proposed session connects directly with the thematic track as it addresses the lack of inclusion of women and gender and sexual minorities on the internet as an issue, more so during a healthcare emergency, indicating the need for swift action to ensure safe, affordable, and accessible internet access.

Online Participation


Usage of IGF Official Tool.