IGF 2023 WS #413 How encryption empowers gender minorities? Voices from APAC


Human Rights & Freedoms
Non-discrimination in the Digital Space
Technology in International Human Rights Law

Organizer 1: Shreya Shruti, The Dialogue
Organizer 2: Kazim Rizvi, 🔒
Organizer 3: Callum Voge, 🔒
Organizer 4: Noelle Francesca de Guzman, 🔒Internet Society
Organizer 5: Neeti Biyani, 🔒Internet Society

Speaker 1: Sreenivisa Priyadarshini, Private Sector, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Polk Ryan, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Kamesh Shekar, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 4: PABLO HINOJOSA, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group


Kazim Rizvi, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Online Moderator

Callum Voge, Civil Society, Eastern European Group


Shreya Shruti, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group


Round Table - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

A. What is the significance of encryption technology in empowering marginalised voices?
B. What has been the impact of encryption hostile laws on the human rights of gender-based minorities?
C. Does undermining encryption technology helps in enhancing online safety? If not, what are other more sustainable solutions to protect online safety without compromising with human rights?

What will participants gain from attending this session? The session will uncover the significance of encryption technology in the everyday life of the people with a sharp focus on the lived experiences of vulnerable communities like female journalists, whistleblowers, LGBTQ+ groups etc. The discussants will include representatives from these communities to help the participants relate better to the policy issues discussed during the session. The idea will be to break down the nuances of encryption and its social significance in an easy to understand format so that the participants are able to appreciate the significance of this technology in their lives better.

As a result, the participants will get new insights into the interlinkages between safety and privacy and how one cannot be achieved at the cost of the other. This will enable them to better appreciate the ongoing global and region specific technology related policy developments and engage more meaningfully on these issues.


In a digital ecosystem replete with extreme speech, trolling, hacking, espionage, and blackmailing, ensuring a safe virtual space with strong encryption measures in place is the first line of defence when protecting human rights of women and other gender based minorities across the globe. E2E encryption provides a secure channel for a survivor of domestic violence, sexual violence, stalking, and trafficking to communicate safely with trusted individuals. It also enables members of the LGBTQ+ community to come out safely and connect with trusted communities privately, minimising the risk of violence and stigma that disproportionately affects them.

However, with rising cybercrime, the dissemination of misinformation and child pornography through encrypted platforms, law enforcement agencies have expressed concern that E2E is hampering them from getting the evidence needed for investigative purposes and have been seeking “exceptional access”. This has led to jurisdictions worldwide including the EU, UK and USA to propose encryption-hostile laws. Such decisions, although well-intentioned on the face of it, could lead to more harm than good. They make the marginalised communities more vulnerable to online threats and compromise the security of the internet architecture, leading to greater cybersecurity perils.

With countries like India, Japan and Australia also following the same trend, this session will discuss the efficacy of the American and European approach for Asia Pacific. The session will simulate a discussion between experts regarding the threats to online safety, cybersecurity and human rights posed by the undermining of E2E encryption as well as the obligation of wider society to its most vulnerable communities. The session will conclude with recommendations that address the law enforcement concerns without undermining the right to privacy and freedom of speech and expression.

Expected Outcomes

The key expected outcome from the session will be to gather multi-stakeholder insights and perspectives on the encryption debate and reach consensus regarding its significance in empowering marginalised communities and securing the internet infrastructure. The output will feed into the ongoing online safety policy deliberations in Japan, India, Australia and other countries in APAC.

A two-page outcome document will be produced entailing the key recommendations from the session. The document will be shared with the policymakers, industry bodies as well as civil society in the APAC region to effectuate a more coordinated response towards exploring effective and sustainable solutions to tackle the challenges faced by law enforcement agencies without compromising the human rights of the people and the security of the internet infrastructure.

Hybrid Format: The session format will be structured, considering both onsite and online attendees, where everyone, irrespective of the medium, would be equally treated and could reap maximum insights from the session. We will make the session interactive by allotting sufficient time for attendees' discussion and contribution to the topics. Followed by the panel discussion, the floor will be set for moderated open discussion where any attendees could post their comments and inputs on the topic to the forum. The attendees will also be encouraged to pose questions to the speakers. We also plan to use audience polls to gauge their opinion on the topic. The onsite moderator will probe the online and onsite attendees to feel free to contribute to the discussion, and an equal chance will be given to both online and onsite attendees. Also, the online moderator will keep the chat on Zoom live and active by stimulating conversations.