Gender and technology have been increasingly recognised as a human rights issue

10 December 2015

Between the belligerence of the Gamer Gate (the controversy regarding the last UN report on violence against women – VAW), and a very uncommon Stockholm Internet Forum who in its last session, focussed on gender issues, the context for the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Joao Pessoa was a very interesting opportunity to see how gender would be addressed in the most important internet forum of the world.

Despite all challenges, it’s satisfactory to see how gender, technology and online VAW have been increasingly recognised as a human rights issue that has to be discussed with a multistakeholder approach. This has undoubtedly been the result of years of incessant work from activists that have developed in depth gender issues on internet, especially from the Global South.

However, the work is far from done. The different panels that I had the opportunity to attend at the IGF, show the necessity to advance in at least two strategic paths:

Political discourse: gender issues such as VAW are not the opposite of human rights. For example, there is no such thing as VAW or freedom of expression. There is VAW and freedom of expression. The discourses matter and gender activists have to be aware of this to fight in that dimension, where political meanings are being played.

I missed more gender references in popular sessions, for instance, Free Basics and Net Neutrality (who are those next billion on the internet?).

Transversal dimension of the gender approach: having women on a panel is not a gender approach. It’s an important advancement but it is far from an acceptable gender approach to technology. Even though I had the opportunity to see how gender issues came up in different discussions, I missed more gender references in popular sessions, for instance, Free Basics and Net Neutrality (who are those next billion on the internet?). It is important to push for a gender perspective around internet issues as an essential part to discuss public policies.

Different discussions with activists present at the IGF, and the last news regarding the terrorists attacks in Paris and the criminalization on encryption, have convinced me in the necessity of a more progressive framework to understand digital rights, where governments cannot show security issues as the opposite of human rights. In this political fight, the gender perspective – as part of a progressive tradition of ideas – is essential. Our fights on the political discourse and the inclusion of a transversal gender approach to internet probably will set the tone not just in the next regional and international IGFs, but in the next cybersecurity forums as well.

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