Since the late 1960s, as the development of telecommunications and microprocessors with a greater capacity to produce, store, transmit and process data expanded, the challenges and areas of social concern also grew. Three decades later, it was believed that technology would allow everybody to participate in the global economy leading to development. However, transnational feminist activist networks questioned this core assumption of the neoliberal agenda. They began to advocate gender mainstreaming in global communications policy to address structural inequalities shaping women's participation in the Information Society.

The first challenge was to create space for policy discussions where communication and technology issues have historically been seen as purely technical and of interest only to policymakers, businesses and industry. On the other hand, civil society and non-profit actors were not even considered in the debates. Feminists, however, proposed a different approach: they criticised patriarchal society and neoliberal globalisation, the concentration of media ownership and the commodification of communication, the unequal access to telecommunications infrastructure, and the international division of labour and employment in the media, telecommunications and information technologies sectors. They highlighted barriers to access to relevant information and its effective use, gender-based violence at every stage of ICT development, and structural barriers to women's participation in technical careers and knowledge production. And they also fought for a place in decision-making structures designing global communication policies.

Most of these challenges remain relevant today and have further extended to new fields, such as cybersecurity, developed under the influence of national security debates with a strong military tradition. In the mainstream understanding of the cybersecurity debates, States are responsible for "restoring control over the misuse of cyber technologies through a more coordinated and focused effort from the national and international society". Many problematic notions come into play in this approach. If we do not focus on analysing the conditions of production of cyber technologies, we might think that cybersecurity challenges are simply a matter of "misuse" that can be "corrected" later with some adjustments and agreements between "interested parties".

To contribute to this debate, APC developed the Framework for developing a gender-responsive cybersecurity policy to provide policy-making actors with a set of tools to mainstream gender in cybersecurity policies. This approach forces us to examine the foundations of cybersecurity policies. Principles, as central as the idea of safety, are not universal. On the contrary, they are "constantly sustained and elaborated by local socio-cultural practices that characterise who and what is considered "safe" or "unsafe"

In this edition of GenderIT, we want to focus on the human dimension of cybersecurity. To do this, we asked ourselves how cybersecurity policies developed from the centres of political, economic and epistemological power affect those at the margins; and how we can think about cybersecurity from a feminist perspective. We set out to find specific and contextualised examples of how cybersecurity directly affects the lives of different women, LGBTQIA+ people and diverse social groups around the world.


This edition was developed with support from the UK Government.

Include at FPI



A Feminist Conversation on Cybersecurity

Inés Binder & Alexandra Haché

Like any other technical domain, cybersecurity has always been confined to senior officials and private sector specialists. Feminists, however, have not only claimed their right to participate in decision-making structures in this field but have made central contributions to the notion of security, bringing holistic and intersectional approaches. In this edition of GenderIT, editors focus on how feminists have challenged cybersecurity policies developed from the centres of political, economic and epistemological power, addressing gender-based violence online where other key actors have failed to provide answers.

Localising Digital Self-Defence Guides for Sex Workers

Despite passing under the guise of fighting sex trafficking, the US-based bills FOSTA/SESTA criminalised sex workers and left them fewer tools to work and protect themselves. Cypher Sex describes the challenges of writing digital self-defence guides with protection strategies that could be applied to this legal scenario.

When Protection Becomes Threat: Cybercrime Regulation As A Tool For Silencing Women And LGBTQIA+ People Around The World

Derechos Digitales maps cases involving the abusive use of cybercrime regulation to silence and criminalise women and LGBTQIA+ people worldwide. The results are troubling and warn of the inherent danger of imposing international standards without considering national contexts or building human rights safeguards, particularly for historically marginalised groups.

Cybercrime Policy to Censor Dissent in Nicaragua

Nicaraguas’ Cybercrime Special Law, passed under the argument of being the first national instrument to protect women’s and children’s integrity online, is being enforced to silence dissenting voices. This article illustrates how the Ortega-Murillo regime has instrumentalised this bill to curtail freedom of expression, criminalise human rights defenders and silence feminist activists in the country.

Feminist Infrastructure: The Creation of What Sustains Us

Our perspectives and conditions of access, use and development of technologies are deeply rooted in the ways patriarchy, capitalism and colonialism are embedded in our daily lives. This article maps pioneering feminist infrastructure experiences that allow us to explore new horizons of political action.

Feminist Sparks of Reflection About Digital Forensics

The international forensic community still fails to develop tools and techniques to address women’s needs. Carl, from Marialab, explores how feminist activists in Brazil are working on frameworks for teaching and applying computer forensics in cases of gender-based violence online.