Established by the Human Rights Council at its 15th session in September 2010, the Working Group on Discrimination Against Women in Law and Public Life focus is to identify, promote and exchange views, in consultation with States and other actors, on good practices related to the elimination of laws that discriminate against women.

In early January this year, Jan Moolman, on behalf of APC Women’s Rights Programme, input a very relevant presentation to the Working Group, which looked at the paths of restriction and paths of resistance, to “illustrate how women are participating online, some of the ways in which discrimination is taking place, and the impact of that discrimination. We will look at why a lot of the legislative initiatives that aim to regulate online spaces are not working and often work against women, and put a strong case for regulating online spaces through a progressive human rights framework, rather than a framework derived from regulating other media spaces, such as television, radio or print.”

In April 2013, the UN Working Group on Discrimination Against Women in Law and Public Life released their thematic report on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice. “The Working Group identifies critical issues to address in eliminating the structural and social underpinnings of gender discrimination in political and public life and presents a framework to eliminate discrimination in law, with some examples of good practices. The recommendations of the Working Group outline a road map for next generation efforts to achieve substantive gender equality in political and public life”, as explained in the summary of the report.

For the preparation of this report, the Working Group received inputs from various stakeholders, including the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), non-governmental organizations and academic experts. It is important to highlight that the report cites and refers to various elements of the input presented by APC. In the section on violence against women of the report it says: “The Internet has become a site of diverse forms of violence against women, in the form of pornography, sexist games and breaches of privacy. For women who engage in public debate through the Internet, the risk of harassment is experienced online, for example, an anonymous negative campaign calling for the gang rape of a woman human rights defender, with racist abuse posted in her Wikipedia profile. 36 Female ICT users have publicly protested about sexist attacks.”

And significantly for APC’s policy work, in the conclusions and recommendations section, the report recommends that States “support women’s equal participation in political and public life through ICTs, including by: Increasing women’s digital literacy, particularly among marginalized women; Ensuring gender-responsiveness in the promotion and protection of human rights on the Internet; Improving women’s access to the global governance of ICTs”.

Read the full Report of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in

Read the full presentation to the Working Group by WRP .

Year of publication


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