Questions Raised - VAW & ICTs: Harmful representations of women in ICTs, censorship and internet governance

These are the questions raised at the mailing list discussion for
the Theme: "VAW & ICTs: Harmful representations of women in ICTs,
censorship and internet governance"
. We hope for further engagement and responses to them from the users
of this space (Feminist Talk)


This first theme is more of an exploratory discussion rather than
attempts at solution. Importantly, we hope to draw from each other’s
knowledge and experiences, as well as case studies or ideas that we may
not be aware of.
Some issues raised on this topic, particularly from the NGO side event
at the recent B+ 10 (Beijing + 10) where we raised the issue of VAW
& ICTs are:



  •  Images and VAW


    Does new technologies like the internet create a new dimension to VAW,
    particularly in relation to representation or images? For example,
    where technologies like webcams and DVDs are used to disseminate and
    market exploitative images of women, especially in male-orientated
    pornography, does that mean that the definition of trafficking has
    shifted from trafficking in persons to trafficking in images?

  • Forming relationships over the Internet


    The issue of mail order brides, where men can surf the internet for
    prospective wives, especially when it is generally in a North-South
    paradigm, is this a new form of VAW that we should be concerned about,
    or is it simply an existing practice that is taking advantage of newer
    technologies? What about cyber dating and cyber sex? Is there something
    that women’s rights activists should be concerned about? E.g. when
    adult men/women pose as youths to engage young people in sexual
    relations?

  • Women’s relationship to VAW and ICTs in post-conflict situations.


    What are the dimensions that need to be highlighted? Where are women’s
    contributions invisible and why this is so? This point was raised
    especially with regards to the Tsunami affected areas and sexual
    violence that was occuring in those spaces.

  • Development of technologies and VAW

    Is there a relationship between the dominant control of technological
    developments in the hands of men, and the use of technology for
    perpetrating VAW? For example, the development of video technology was
    heavily influenced by the pornographic industry. Is there a similar
    thing happening with spy software, digital tracking devices and
    webcams?

Responses to this post

This is summary of the discussion from the VAW (violence against women) & ICT (information communications technologies) mailing list for the first week. The theme for Week 1 (23 May - 29 May 2005) is: harmful representations of women in ICTs, censorship and internet governance. Most of the discussion centred more on how representation and dissemination of images through new ICTs could constitute as a dimension of VAW:<br />1) Images, Internet, VAW & Trafficking<br />====================================<br />Do new technologies like the internet create a new dimension to VAW, particularly in relation to representation or images? For example, where technologies like webcams and DVDs are used to disseminate and market exploitative images of women, especially in male-orientated pornography, does that mean that the definition of trafficking has shifted from trafficking in persons to trafficking in images?<br />New ICTs are merely a tool, but a powerful one:<br />- ICTs gives additional tools to perpetator of VAW as well as activists working against VAW. It is unique because of its relative cheapness and ease of use, and of its ability to bypass local laws and sometimes international conventions. The use of these tools inevitably reflects and has the potency to reinforce existing power relations. As such they can replicate VAW in more convenient forms.<br />- Consolidation of media ownership can effectively reinforce gender relations since they are guided by principles of marketability. Repetition of ‘appropriate’ gender performance depends highly on communications technologies to solidify as reality, and as such, these consolidations have great power to reinforce gender relations through particular imageries.<br />- New ICTs cannot create new dimensions to VAW because those who are violent by nature will not be satisfied by mere spectatorship of images.<br />- Since it is less accessible generally in developing/under-developed, it has not been a widely used tool for perpetrators of VAW (easier to hang around schools and community water taps).<br />New ICTs are not just a tool, but have the potency to create new dimensions to VAW:<br />- New technologies by creating a diversification of tools to perpetrate sexual violence also have the potency to transform certain acts into a form of VAW although it was not initially so. This is through its changing the context in which images was intended, and in the process, creating harm to the persons involved.<br />- In reality, women have little control of the images taken of her, even though she could be a consenting party to the contract. In the process of gaining control, she may have to bear further attacks on her sexuality, rights and personhood.<br />- Easy access to images could create a sense of impunity on the part of the audience, that could be a close approximation to effecting VAW in itself<br />- VAW will acquire new dimensions in terms of information or data in itself. For example, ICTs are used to establish international pornography networks and have greater, safer and easier distribution channels <br />Shift from trafficking in persons to images? Some material differences:<br />- Overall, there is consensus that there is NO shift (in terms of replacement or reduction) from trafficking in persons to images. However, there is a noticable dimension to trafficking of images in various forms as facilitated by new ICTs that impacts upon trafficking in persons.<br />- The intended audience and market for pornography and various forms of sexually exploitative images of women through new ICTs are materially different from that of trafficking in persons.<br />- Dissemination and proliferation of sexually exploitative images through new ICTs means a widening of the sex industry since it can reach a greater number of potential consumers at lesser personal ‘cost’ (cheaper than engaging sex workers and less danger to ‘social reputation’)<br />- Trafficking in women and children for sexual purposes or forced labour has been facilitated through networking on the internet.<br />- Pornography through the internet has a higher chance of consent from the women or parents of the children involved as opposed to trafficking which is completely based on force and coercion. The former could mean greater income to the persons involved without actually transacting their body for the greater amount of penetration<br />- Sexualised images through new ICTs can promote trafficking in persons since it disseminates the discourse of passive and exploitable (?) female sexual agency and increases the demand for women’s sexual services.<br />- Virtual sex can avoid national legislations, and is something that requires serious consideration.<br />- In many cases, the women are criminalised along with pimps and operators of web-cam pornography. This creates a disparity in impact since the operators usually have resources to bail themselves out and relocate elesewhere.<br />2) Forming relationships through new ICTs<br />====================================<br />The issue of mail order brides, where men can surf the internet for prospective wives, especially when it is generally in a North-South paradigm, is this a new form of VAW that we should be concerned about, or is it simply an existing practice that is taking advantage of newer technologies? What about cyber dating and cyber sex? Is there something that women’s rights activists should be concerned about? E.g. when adult men/women pose as youths to engage young people in sexual relations?<br />The economic position of the persons involved is a very material factor in this issue. <br />Relationships formed are not harmful in itself, but has a potential to cause harm:<br />- Mail-order-brides (men in the economic ‘North’ seeking wives in the economic ‘South’) are existing practices. However, new ICTs help to facilitate this practice through its ease and breath in dissemination.<br />- Many women explore mail-order-bride websites because it offers them a way out of poverty. The question is, how to transform the context to protect the rights of women who engage in this practice.<br />- Cyber sex might be a form of safer practice as compared to physical sexual relations. However, this is limited to the extent of where relationships formed through this space reflects and augments power relations in the ‘external’ world.<br />- When relationships formed through new ICTs are transposed or furthered outside of chatrooms, especially for women who are not based in urban centres, there would be difficulty in getting support once violence arises.<br />- There may be deceit involved in forming these relationships since the internet affords anonymity to an extent <br />Relationships formed through the internet have a unique dimension of its own:<br />- What are the visions of relationship that they promote?<br />- Although relationships formed through this space is quite ‘safe’, it alienates human feelings. There is an uncertainty of who is on the other side, and can create unrealistic expectations (since the relationships formed are primarily through text alone)<br />- However, cyber space also affords participants to speak freely with less self-censorship, and arguably could present an avenue for greater exploration of the self and other.<br />- The practice of cyber-dating should be examined as an offshoot of colonial relationships. For example, through codes of desire or mechanisms of representation through the relationship of post-coloniality (who is considered desirable and what stereotyped images or discourse do they depend on that relates to a previous colonial relationship – whether actual or through popular culture)<br />3) Development of Technology and Gender Relations<br />====================================<br />Is there a relationship between the dominant control of technological developments in the hands of men, and the use of technology for perpetrating VAW? For example, the development of video technology was heavily influenced by the pornographic industry. Is there a similar thing happening with spy software, digital tracking devices and webcams?<br />- Overall, there is consensus that there is a relationship between the development of technology in terms of content, use, and development, with the needs, abilities, preferences and values of the powerful.<br />- In general, ICTs is a male dominated industry, as decision makers in the production process and as consumers.<br />- As long as this is the case, and men are socialised for violence, then there will be a very close relationship between ICTs and VAW.<br />- However, it is important to take into account the whole production process of ICTs (not just its usage) in analysis. This includes women’s role as producers in the factories and software development etc.<br />- It is also important to recognise women’s potential and existing practices in appropriating technologies to make them work for our causes.<br />Looking forward to your comments, responses and insights.<br />JacThis is summary of the discussion from the VAW (violence against women) & ICT (information communications technologies) mailing list for the first week. The theme for Week 1 (23 May - 29 May 2005) is: harmful representations of women in ICTs, censorship and internet governance. Most of the discussion centred more on how representation and dissemination of images through new ICTs could constitute as a dimension of VAW:<br />1) Images, Internet, VAW & Trafficking<br />====================================<br />Do new technologies like the internet create a new dimension to VAW, particularly in relation to representation or images? For example, where technologies like webcams and DVDs are used to disseminate and market exploitative images of women, especially in male-orientated pornography, does that mean that the definition of trafficking has shifted from trafficking in persons to trafficking in images?<br />New ICTs are merely a tool, but a powerful one:<br />- ICTs gives additional tools to perpetator of VAW as well as activists working against VAW. It is unique because of its relative cheapness and ease of use, and of its ability to bypass local laws and sometimes international conventions. The use of these tools inevitably reflects and has the potency to reinforce existing power relations. As such they can replicate VAW in more convenient forms.<br />- Consolidation of media ownership can effectively reinforce gender relations since they are guided by principles of marketability. Repetition of ‘appropriate’ gender performance depends highly on communications technologies to solidify as reality, and as such, these consolidations have great power to reinforce gender relations through particular imageries.<br />- New ICTs cannot create new dimensions to VAW because those who are violent by nature will not be satisfied by mere spectatorship of images.<br />- Since it is less accessible generally in developing/under-developed, it has not been a widely used tool for perpetrators of VAW (easier to hang around schools and community water taps).<br />New ICTs are not just a tool, but have the potency to create new dimensions to VAW:<br />- New technologies by creating a diversification of tools to perpetrate sexual violence also have the potency to transform certain acts into a form of VAW although it was not initially so. This is through its changing the context in which images was intended, and in the process, creating harm to the persons involved.<br />- In reality, women have little control of the images taken of her, even though she could be a consenting party to the contract. In the process of gaining control, she may have to bear further attacks on her sexuality, rights and personhood.<br />- Easy access to images could create a sense of impunity on the part of the audience, that could be a close approximation to effecting VAW in itself<br />- VAW will acquire new dimensions in terms of information or data in itself. For example, ICTs are used to establish international pornography networks and have greater, safer and easier distribution channels <br />Shift from trafficking in persons to images? Some material differences:<br />- Overall, there is consensus that there is NO shift (in terms of replacement or reduction) from trafficking in persons to images. However, there is a noticable dimension to trafficking of images in various forms as facilitated by new ICTs that impacts upon trafficking in persons.<br />- The intended audience and market for pornography and various forms of sexually exploitative images of women through new ICTs are materially different from that of trafficking in persons.<br />- Dissemination and proliferation of sexually exploitative images through new ICTs means a widening of the sex industry since it can reach a greater number of potential consumers at lesser personal ‘cost’ (cheaper than engaging sex workers and less danger to ‘social reputation’)<br />- Trafficking in women and children for sexual purposes or forced labour has been facilitated through networking on the internet.<br />- Pornography through the internet has a higher chance of consent from the women or parents of the children involved as opposed to trafficking which is completely based on force and coercion. The former could mean greater income to the persons involved without actually transacting their body for the greater amount of penetration<br />- Sexualised images through new ICTs can promote trafficking in persons since it disseminates the discourse of passive and exploitable (?) female sexual agency and increases the demand for women’s sexual services.<br />- Virtual sex can avoid national legislations, and is something that requires serious consideration.<br />- In many cases, the women are criminalised along with pimps and operators of web-cam pornography. This creates a disparity in impact since the operators usually have resources to bail themselves out and relocate elesewhere.<br />2) Forming relationships through new ICTs<br />====================================<br />The issue of mail order brides, where men can surf the internet for prospective wives, especially when it is generally in a North-South paradigm, is this a new form of VAW that we should be concerned about, or is it simply an existing practice that is taking advantage of newer technologies? What about cyber dating and cyber sex? Is there something that women’s rights activists should be concerned about? E.g. when adult men/women pose as youths to engage young people in sexual relations?<br />The economic position of the persons involved is a very material factor in this issue. <br />Relationships formed are not harmful in itself, but has a potential to cause harm:<br />- Mail-order-brides (men in the economic ‘North’ seeking wives in the economic ‘South’) are existing practices. However, new ICTs help to facilitate this practice through its ease and breath in dissemination.<br />- Many women explore mail-order-bride websites because it offers them a way out of poverty. The question is, how to transform the context to protect the rights of women who engage in this practice.<br />- Cyber sex might be a form of safer practice as compared to physical sexual relations. However, this is limited to the extent of where relationships formed through this space reflects and augments power relations in the ‘external’ world.<br />- When relationships formed through new ICTs are transposed or furthered outside of chatrooms, especially for women who are not based in urban centres, there would be difficulty in getting support once violence arises.<br />- There may be deceit involved in forming these relationships since the internet affords anonymity to an extent <br />Relationships formed through the internet have a unique dimension of its own:<br />- What are the visions of relationship that they promote?<br />- Although relationships formed through this space is quite ‘safe’, it alienates human feelings. There is an uncertainty of who is on the other side, and can create unrealistic expectations (since the relationships formed are primarily through text alone)<br />- However, cyber space also affords participants to speak freely with less self-censorship, and arguably could present an avenue for greater exploration of the self and other.<br />- The practice of cyber-dating should be examined as an offshoot of colonial relationships. For example, through codes of desire or mechanisms of representation through the relationship of post-coloniality (who is considered desirable and what stereotyped images or discourse do they depend on that relates to a previous colonial relationship – whether actual or through popular culture)<br />3) Development of Technology and Gender Relations<br />====================================<br />Is there a relationship between the dominant control of technological developments in the hands of men, and the use of technology for perpetrating VAW? For example, the development of video technology was heavily influenced by the pornographic industry. Is there a similar thing happening with spy software, digital tracking devices and webcams?<br />- Overall, there is consensus that there is a relationship between the development of technology in terms of content, use, and development, with the needs, abilities, preferences and values of the powerful.<br />- In general, ICTs is a male dominated industry, as decision makers in the production process and as consumers.<br />- As long as this is the case, and men are socialised for violence, then there will be a very close relationship between ICTs and VAW.<br />- However, it is important to take into account the whole production process of ICTs (not just its usage) in analysis. This includes women’s role as producers in the factories and software development etc.<br />- It is also important to recognise women’s potential and existing practices in appropriating technologies to make them work for our causes.<br />Looking forward to your comments, responses and insights.<br />JacThis is summary of the discussion from the VAW (violence against women) & ICT (information communications technologies) mailing list for the first week. The theme for Week 1 (23 May - 29 May 2005) is: harmful representations of women in ICTs, censorship and internet governance. Most of the discussion centred more on how representation and dissemination of images through new ICTs could constitute as a dimension of VAW:<br />1) Images, Internet, VAW & Trafficking<br />====================================<br />Do new technologies like the internet create a new dimension to VAW, particularly in relation to representation or images? For example, where technologies like webcams and DVDs are used to disseminate and market exploitative images of women, especially in male-orientated pornography, does that mean that the definition of trafficking has shifted from trafficking in persons to trafficking in images?<br />New ICTs are merely a tool, but a powerful one:<br />- ICTs gives additional tools to perpetator of VAW as well as activists working against VAW. It is unique because of its relative cheapness and ease of use, and of its ability to bypass local laws and sometimes international conventions. The use of these tools inevitably reflects and has the potency to reinforce existing power relations. As such they can replicate VAW in more convenient forms.<br />- Consolidation of media ownership can effectively reinforce gender relations since they are guided by principles of marketability. Repetition of ‘appropriate’ gender performance depends highly on communications technologies to solidify as reality, and as such, these consolidations have great power to reinforce gender relations through particular imageries.<br />- New ICTs cannot create new dimensions to VAW because those who are violent by nature will not be satisfied by mere spectatorship of images.<br />- Since it is less accessible generally in developing/under-developed, it has not been a widely used tool for perpetrators of VAW (easier to hang around schools and community water taps).<br />New ICTs are not just a tool, but have the potency to create new dimensions to VAW:<br />- New technologies by creating a diversification of tools to perpetrate sexual violence also have the potency to transform certain acts into a form of VAW although it was not initially so. This is through its changing the context in which images was intended, and in the process, creating harm to the persons involved.<br />- In reality, women have little control of the images taken of her, even though she could be a consenting party to the contract. In the process of gaining control, she may have to bear further attacks on her sexuality, rights and personhood.<br />- Easy access to images could create a sense of impunity on the part of the audience, that could be a close approximation to effecting VAW in itself<br />- VAW will acquire new dimensions in terms of information or data in itself. For example, ICTs are used to establish international pornography networks and have greater, safer and easier distribution channels <br />Shift from trafficking in persons to images? Some material differences:<br />- Overall, there is consensus that there is NO shift (in terms of replacement or reduction) from trafficking in persons to images. However, there is a noticable dimension to trafficking of images in various forms as facilitated by new ICTs that impacts upon trafficking in persons.<br />- The intended audience and market for pornography and various forms of sexually exploitative images of women through new ICTs are materially different from that of trafficking in persons.<br />- Dissemination and proliferation of sexually exploitative images through new ICTs means a widening of the sex industry since it can reach a greater number of potential consumers at lesser personal ‘cost’ (cheaper than engaging sex workers and less danger to ‘social reputation’)<br />- Trafficking in women and children for sexual purposes or forced labour has been facilitated through networking on the internet.<br />- Pornography through the internet has a higher chance of consent from the women or parents of the children involved as opposed to trafficking which is completely based on force and coercion. The former could mean greater income to the persons involved without actually transacting their body for the greater amount of penetration<br />- Sexualised images through new ICTs can promote trafficking in persons since it disseminates the discourse of passive and exploitable (?) female sexual agency and increases the demand for women’s sexual services.<br />- Virtual sex can avoid national legislations, and is something that requires serious consideration.<br />- In many cases, the women are criminalised along with pimps and operators of web-cam pornography. This creates a disparity in impact since the operators usually have resources to bail themselves out and relocate elesewhere.<br />2) Forming relationships through new ICTs<br />====================================<br />The issue of mail order brides, where men can surf the internet for prospective wives, especially when it is generally in a North-South paradigm, is this a new form of VAW that we should be concerned about, or is it simply an existing practice that is taking advantage of newer technologies? What about cyber dating and cyber sex? Is there something that women’s rights activists should be concerned about? E.g. when adult men/women pose as youths to engage young people in sexual relations?<br />The economic position of the persons involved is a very material factor in this issue. <br />Relationships formed are not harmful in itself, but has a potential to cause harm:<br />- Mail-order-brides (men in the economic ‘North’ seeking wives in the economic ‘South’) are existing practices. However, new ICTs help to facilitate this practice through its ease and breath in dissemination.<br />- Many women explore mail-order-bride websites because it offers them a way out of poverty. The question is, how to transform the context to protect the rights of women who engage in this practice.<br />- Cyber sex might be a form of safer practice as compared to physical sexual relations. However, this is limited to the extent of where relationships formed through this space reflects and augments power relations in the ‘external’ world.<br />- When relationships formed through new ICTs are transposed or furthered outside of chatrooms, especially for women who are not based in urban centres, there would be difficulty in getting support once violence arises.<br />- There may be deceit involved in forming these relationships since the internet affords anonymity to an extent <br />Relationships formed through the internet have a unique dimension of its own:<br />- What are the visions of relationship that they promote?<br />- Although relationships formed through this space is quite ‘safe’, it alienates human feelings. There is an uncertainty of who is on the other side, and can create unrealistic expectations (since the relationships formed are primarily through text alone)<br />- However, cyber space also affords participants to speak freely with less self-censorship, and arguably could present an avenue for greater exploration of the self and other.<br />- The practice of cyber-dating should be examined as an offshoot of colonial relationships. For example, through codes of desire or mechanisms of representation through the relationship of post-coloniality (who is considered desirable and what stereotyped images or discourse do they depend on that relates to a previous colonial relationship – whether actual or through popular culture)<br />3) Development of Technology and Gender Relations<br />====================================<br />Is there a relationship between the dominant control of technological developments in the hands of men, and the use of technology for perpetrating VAW? For example, the development of video technology was heavily influenced by the pornographic industry. Is there a similar thing happening with spy software, digital tracking devices and webcams?<br />- Overall, there is consensus that there is a relationship between the development of technology in terms of content, use, and development, with the needs, abilities, preferences and values of the powerful.<br />- In general, ICTs is a male dominated industry, as decision makers in the production process and as consumers.<br />- As long as this is the case, and men are socialised for violence, then there will be a very close relationship between ICTs and VAW.<br />- However, it is important to take into account the whole production process of ICTs (not just its usage) in analysis. This includes women’s role as producers in the factories and software development etc.<br />- It is also important to recognise women’s potential and existing practices in appropriating technologies to make them work for our causes.<br />Looking forward to your comments, responses and insights.<br />Jac
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