‘Negotiating Spaces’is an annual conference organised by Majlis. This year’s edition will explore the on-line space through a gender lens by looking at its various facets including the positive impacts, its threats and internal contradictions that envelop it.
The impact of the opening up of the online space has been compared to the industrial revolution that altered the world three centuries ago.
Some view it as an opening of a newer avenue of knowledge sharing, better and faster communication transcending time and space, and for women a new spatial world in which to explore themselves and their sexuality. For young people, it has become their universe. The physical space has merged with the digital.
There are others who feel that the internet is a point of no return. It is a vast terrain of the unknown and the unfamiliar. They are vary and view it with trepidation and anxiety, particularly the older generation who have to learn an entirely new language. They believe the space is to be used with care, caution, control and regulations as it poses dangers far beyond physical reality.
Then there is the issue of privacy which contradicts with the constant supervision and surveillance. Under the garb of safety and security of the country, the anonymity and privacy of the individual has been violated and each person is now subjected to continuous and perpetual monitoring. A latent culprit whose guilt is implied, only yet to be recorded and proven. The bid for a cashless economy leaves a digital trail of every transaction. All this as the poor and the marginalised struggle to access to clean drinking water, basic education and healthcare.
When we enter the realm of law, the online space throws up its own challenges regarding jurisdiction and culpability. Policies of censorship come directly in conflict with the fundamental right to free speech and expression. While this is also an issue in physical space, online, where everything is speech, this issue gets amplified.
While proposing new laws we need to view it in the context of our past experience — the wide gulf between enactment and aspirations of the campaigners. Non-implementation of laws, endless delays and court being a scary space for victims has led to a deep frustration. Would it thus be more prudent to use existing legal provisions rather than a totally new law which may remain merely ornamental without any possibility of acting as a deterrent.
The two day conference will dwell upon these diverse concern and try to understand the reach and possibilities of the online in its entirety. The super technological world we now live in, the new possibilities it offers and the challenges that it has brought about, for better or for worse.
Dr. Anja Kovacs will present a paper during the session on freedom of expression, titled ‘Protecting Women, Silencing Women? Free Speech, Censorship and Indian Internet Law’.
The session will also have presentations by Bishakha Datta from Point of View and Vidya Reddy from Tulir. It is moderated by Osama Manzar.