Cyberattacks, Cyberconflicts and International Security
New Technologies and Risks to Online Security
Online Hate Speech and Rights of Vulnerable People
Panel - 60 Min
Ending technology-facilitated gender-based violence (TF GBV) requires building bridges across governments, multilateral organizations, private companies, women’s organizations, and digital rights communities. We must collectively work to foster authentic partnerships, rights-based regulation, and human-centered technology grounded in survivor-centered approaches and feminist principles in order to collectively prevent the amplification and normalization of misogyny, build systems of accountability and work toward a safer internet for all. Our panel conversation will explore the possibility of future regulatory frameworks grounded in findings from seminal landscaping research of existing TF GBV regulation globally. We will hear from the only current intergovernmental regulatory body, feminist digital rights activities and community leaders, as well as hear from leading multilateral organizations bringing this work together.
In this hybrid session, we will take all opportunities to engage with online and on-site participants. Utilizing a discussion question app allows online and on-site participants to not only equally ask discussion questions, but also allows participants to vote for their favorite questions which ensures that the prioritization of questions is participant-led. Additionally, we will be utilizing online polls to collect online and on-site feedback and sentiment about topics discussed. Post the event we will incorporate the live feedback collected during the session into the roll out of our newly released regulatory framework.
UNFPA United Nations Population Fund
Alexandra Robinson, UNFPA, Global; Stephanie Mikkelson, UNFPA, Global; Sujata Tuladhar, UNFPA, Asia Pacific Region
Alexandra Robinson, UNFPA, Global
Stephanie Mikkelson, UNFPA, Global
Sujata Tuladhar, UNFPA, Asia Pacific Region
Targets: The use of technology and online spaces should serve as a tool for accelerating the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women instead of a tool of subjugation, the perpetration of violence and silencing of women in all their diversity. Ending technology-facilitated gender-based violence (TF GBV) directly increases gender equality.
Governments and civil society organizations have addressed technology-facilitated gender-based violence over the past three decades. However, there are gaps in current regulatory frameworks, some of which are not human rights-based and poorly enforced. Multilayered approaches beyond criminalization are needed, including effective prevention and response strategies and remedies for survivors.
Policymakers: develop multilayered strategies to prevent and respond to technology-facilitated GBV that are context-specific, evidence-based and grounded in human rights, in close partnership and collaboration with communities and civil society organizations.
Civil society: demand a narrative shift: the Internet should be a space for pleasure, joy, freedom, and unrestricted self-expression for all, free from violence and discrimination, and demand enforcement of human rights based protections to make these spaces safe and gender equal.
The event “Disrupt Harm: Accountability for a Safer Internet” convened by UNFPA aimed to explore the mechanisms through which the harms caused by technology-facilitated gender-based violence are being addressed in order to achieve safer internet and digital spaces for women and girls in all their diversity.
Senator Martha Lucía Mícher Camarena, chair of the Gender Equality Committee in the Mexican Senate, opened the event. Senator Mícher spoke of her experience and success in developing and implementing legislative changes to protect women and girls in the digital space. A recent reform which was unanimously approved in the Mexican Senate represented a crucial milestone in technology-facilitated gender-based violence (TF GBV) regulation at the national level which has provided the opportunity for learning at the international level. The legislation defines digital violence and provides a regulatory structure for protection. According to Senator Mícher, applying a legal framework that supports women and girls in the digital space is non-negotiable in our shared mission to protect women and girls’ rights as a whole.
The following panel discussion featured contributions of Sherri Kraham Talabany, the President and Executive Director of SEED, Karla Velasco, policy and advocacy coordinator at the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), Julie-Inman Grant, Australia eSafety Commissioner, and Juan Carlos Lara, Co-Executive Director of Derechos Digitales.
Ms. Talabany highlighted the unique challenges faced by women and girls in Iraq and the Middle East. In this region, high internet penetration co-exists with gender inequality and conservative norms, leading to the significant vulnerability for women and girls in terms of gender-based violence (GBV) and TF GBV. Notably, 77% of the population is online, with 50% of Iraqi women and girls experiencing or knowing someone affected by TF GBV. This online violence often spills into the real world, resulting in murder, honor killings and increased suicide rates. Ms. Talabany also highlighted the need for a regional approach to address the Middle East's unique challenges. SEED have initiated a TF GBV task force in Iraq, which focuses on the protection of women’s human rights while safeguarding online freedom of expression. Urgent needs that emerged from this intervention include the need for secure reporting, investigations, and protection from specialized agencies with skilled personnel including support from NGOs well-versed in this issue as well as tech companies who must adopt a human rights and survivor-centered approach.
Karla Velasco spoke to the work of APC in women's rights, sexual rights, and feminist movements in the majority world. This work started in 2006, at a time when terms like "online gender-based violence" didn't exist. To have seen TF GBV at the forefront of international agendas and being discussed at events like the IGF for the past few years has been a remarkable achievement for APC and CSOs alike. Karla emphasized the importance of amplifying the voices of women and individuals with diverse genders and sexualities in the digital realm. She proposed a shift in focus from conceptualizing TF GBV to emphasizing remedies and responses. She also encouraged going beyond addressing the gender digital gap and women's access to the Internet. Instead, she urged consideration of how people connect online, and how these online interactions and challenges cut across intersectionality and location. Lastly, Ms. Velasco called for a change in the narrative surrounding women and girls' use of the Internet, celebrating digital spaces as sources of pleasure, fun, and creativity.
Commissioner Julie-Inman Grant, Australia eSafety Commissioner, discussed the pivotal role of the eSafety Commission in coordinating legislation within the Commonwealth and promoting online safety. She underscored the necessity for evidence-based solutions over one-size-fits-all approaches and stressed the importance of recognizing the diverse impact on the most vulnerable communities. To illustrate this perspective, she provided the example of Indigenous communities and women with intellectual disabilities in Australia, who contend with intersectional layers of vulnerability and discrimination, thereby shaping a distinct experience of TF GBV in comparison to the broader Australian population. This underscores the critical need to consider these and other intersections and collaborate with the affected communities to design effective solutions.
Juan Carlos Lara highlighted that Derechos Digitales recognizes the internet as a space with both risks and opportunities. The digital realm offers a platform for social and justice-related demands, as well as a means to prevent and address GBV. While legislative efforts are crucial in tackling TF GBV, it's important to acknowledge that this is a multifaceted issue that requires a combination of approaches. Legislation alone is insufficient; it must be effectively enforced. Moreover, any legislation should carefully consider the rights of survivors, including privacy, freedom of expression, and access to information. Given that vulnerable groups are disproportionately affected, adopting an intersectional approach that accounts for contextual and social differences is imperative. Criminalization, in and of itself, isn't the panacea; instead, education and legislation should aim to mitigate harm without perpetuating violence. Derechos Digitales calls for strengthening digital rights, encompassing privacy, security, and freedom of expression. Any legislation addressing TF GBV must carefully consider these aspects, and the forthcoming guidance created in collaboration with UNFPA is anticipated to facilitate this ongoing process.
At the close of the session, panelists responded to questions from the audience on national progress on the Online Safety Bill, the creation of data on TF GBV without relying on platforms, and international policy progress in addressing TF GBV.
Finally, the event was closed by Ms. Eiko Narita, UNFPA Japan Office Chief, who underscored the need for collective action to combat the harms encountered on the Internet. She also emphasized the significance of acknowledging CSOs, who provide the vital perspective of women and girls experiences as well as holding a critical accountability role. She encouraged the attendees to carry forward the meaningful discussions initiated at the IGF.
The event witnessed a large turnout with around 64 in person and 15 virtual attendees. Numerous civil society and Government representatives, expressed confidence in using the outcomes of the discussions as a key contribution to their future endeavors. Several attendees formed valuable connections with the panelists, paving the way for future collaborative initiatives.