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The Dynamic Coalition of Gender and Internet Governance provides an overview of gender-based themes at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) over the years. With the increase of data base technology, people’s bodies are becoming data. In many parts of the world young people are denied sexual education in schools, and the right to decide about the well-being of their bodies. Collected personal data can be used against women and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community at any moment.
The session was moderated by Ms Bishakha Datta, Co-founder and Director, Point of View.
Ms Laura Breton Despradel, Activist, ISOC, Republica Dominicana, said that in the Dominican Republic three out of ten girls, before the age of 18, are pregnant or already have a child. Most of these girls are victims of rape. There are many cases of girls dying because they are both sick and pregnant, but are denied an abortion which would save their lives. There is no sexual education in schools. The Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches are very influential. Despradel gave an example of the Roman Catholic Church suing an 18 year old girl over videos of a condom in her purse. For the Church this meant sex and the promotion of promiscuity. However, the case was dismissed in court on the basis of freedom of speech. Despradel is working with the UN population fund on providing sexual education for adults and adolescents. The main challenge was to start collaboration with the Ministry of Education. A group of queer adolescents, who attended sexual education classes, are now speaking more openly and describing what kind of information they need in the apps for sexual education. Considering that Dominican Republic’s President and Ministers are all using Twitter, the young people have taken their campaigns to Twitter, in order to communicate with them.
Ms Valentina Pellizzer, Sexuality and the Internet Project Coordinator, Association for Progressive Communications (APC), spoke about Erotics, a 10 years old network supported by APC. Erotics does exploratory research on information and communication technology. It looks into diversity and how sexual rights activists and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning (LGBTIQ) community play on and use the Internet. It also considers how they are backlashed through the Internet. Pellizzer noted that people are forced to use the ‘big commercial Internet that is making money out of people's data’.
The latest baseline research was done in three countries, India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, with the aim to understand access. With the increase of technology based on collecting data and lack of awareness about it and the ways the private sector is using data, there are many backlashes. Alliances, religions, and cultures have control over people, and are harming people by using their data against them. There is a need to talk about ‘dataveillance’ beyond surveillance. It is important to look at privacy and freedom of expression through ‘our body’, and keep data at the centre of the discourse.
Ms Baldeep Grewal, Academic, Universität Würzburg, spoke about the record from the gender report cards (GRC) received from the IGF 2016. At the IGF 2009 the growing discontent with women's visibility in the presenters at and the content of the workshops was noticed. The evaluation of engagement and encouragement of gendered perspectives in workshops was the first step. GRCs had five questions: the number of women in the room, the number of women speakers on the panel, the number of women speaking from the floor, the number of women as moderators, how inclusive, in terms of gender issues, was the discussion? From IGF 2012 onwards it was mandated that every session organiser has to submit a report that answers these five questions about their sessions. If they did not do it, they were not able to secure their slot for the next year's IGF. The reports from the GRCs are published on the IGF website and in the IGF annual report.
Grewal noted that there is visible progress in terms of making IGF workshop themes and discussions explicitly gender oriented. She also drew attention to the President’s speech at the IGF 2018 opening ceremony, which mentioned online abuse of youth but without any mention of online violence against women which is an entire problem by itself.
By Aida Mahmutović