Feminist reflection on internet policies

Changing the way you see ICT

Let's go beyond the basics: What would feminist internet governance look like?

Valeria Betancourt
Valeria Betancourt on 26 September, 2013 - 14:25 on 26 September, 2013 - 14:25
Valeria is the coordinator of the APC Communication and Information Policy Programme.
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Feminism is one of the most important movements in the recent history of humanity, if we measure its political impact, the level of its theoretical proposals, and its ability for social articulation and mobilization, It has permeated the debate, analysis, activism, and development of public policy in critical areas like the economy, culture, health, and education, among others. Nevertheless, when it comes to internet governance, a gender perspective has rarely been considered, although the internet has become an essential element of almost all spheres of people’s lives.

In Latin America a regional policy dialogue on internet governance has been held annually since 2008. Since it began, various stakeholders in the region have focused on analyzing the relevant issues of internet governance, reviewing its impact on Latin American countries, and developing perspectives on internet policies, rules, and mechanisms for access, use, evolution, and management. Over the six years that these regional meeting have been held participants have identified the need to mainstream the gender perspective throughout discussion of topics on internet governance. However, issues such as the as real and substantive participation of women in the development of global, regional, and national internet policies, and the impact of internet access and use on the exercise of women’s rights have not been systematically addressed.

Efforts have been made to ensure the participation of women in the regional organizing committee. Gender balance was established as one of the main criteria for the allocation of scholarships for participation, and attempts are made to prioritize the involvement of women in the sessions as resource persons. However, this has not been enough to address the structural exclusion of women from the way internet governance is configured. Internet governance responds, in large part, to the patriarchal, colonial, androcentric, and capitalist matrix that oppresses all on the basis of a model of oppression of women by men.

Having finished the sixth regional preparatory meeting for Latin America and Caribbean Internet Governance Forum, which was held in Córdoba (Argentina) from August 27th to 29th , it is appropriate to ask: What would internet governance configured from a feminist perspective look like? This is a question we are trying to respond to gradually, on the basis of experience; evidence generated through research; and concrete conceptual proposals around issues of privacy, security, openness, access, diversity, freedom of expression, and others.

We must go beyond the basic efforts that have been made for the inclusion of the gender dimension in the regional discussion on internet governance, and, fundamentally, get to practices on regional and national levels. It is also necessary to find effective ways of moving the regional issues to the global space of the Internet Governance Forum.

This edition of GenderIT.org highlights some of the proposals made by colleagues of APC, women’s rights activists, and experts invited to the regional meeting in Córdoba.

In a joint interview, Daphne Sabanes Plou and Erika Smith (APC Women’s Rights Programme) talk about the marginalization of gender in the regional meeting.

Natalia Gherardi, of the Latin American Gender Justice Team, in an interview with Flavia Fascendini, poses the problem of invisible violence and how it translates to the online environment.

Hate speech against women online is one of the most complex issues that requires both a comprehensive analysis and comprehensive prevention and reparation measures. Erika Smith shares an article she wrote on this subject.

As part of the feminist conversations, the APC coordinator of the Women’s Rights Programme for Latin America, Dafne Sabanes Plou, reviews the relevant points of the discussion on security, privacy, and online surveillance in her blog: Where are our digital rights headed? (in Spanish). In another article, Daphne aims to answer the question of how discourses and images construct subjectivities on the internet and how these, in turn, are used by digital media to undermine equal opportunity and gender equity. Finally, the article What was said about women’s rights in the LAC meeting for the IGF? (in Spanish) provides an overview of how gender issues were covered on twitter over the three-day debate on internet governance.

Photo by Colnodo

 

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