Gender, free speech, censorship

Under the larger issue of Freedom of expression

Censorship on the Internet is frequently justified by concerns to safeguard morality or protect women. But do existing laws and initiatives support women in actual practice in confronting the considerable challenges that they face online? We investigate.   Read More

Be it online or offline, censorship measures are frequently justified by concerns to safeguard morality or protect women. While the Internet provides women with important new opportunities to express themselves, it is true that the medium also poses them with considerable challenges as old forms of harassment materialise in new shapes online. Cyberstalking and the gendered online abuse that women on the Internet face are perhaps the two most prominent examples of this.

To ensure that women’s rights are protected online as well, targeted measures may therefore at times be required. But whether existing measures actually support women in confronting the considerable challenges they face remains a question. What are women’s existing strategies to deal with abuse and harassment they face online? What do they require from the law to fight such abuse? And do India’s existing laws support them in their battles, or does the law actually curtail their ability to take their fate in their own hands? Where possibly well-intended measures end up restricting free speech in ways beyond the strictly necessary and legitimate, they only become counterproductive, as it is precisely in its potential to give women - as all of us - voice that one of the great strengths of the Internet lies.

It is such questions, then, that the Internet Democracy Project examines in greater depth. Read on to find out more.

Posts & Reports

  • We are hiring! Help us take forward our work on gender and online abuse

    APPLICATIONS ARE NOW CLOSED The Internet Democracy Project has conducted pioneering work on the issue of gender and online abuse in India since 2012. We are now looking for three short-term consultants to help us take this work forward between now and December 2019: two research consultants and one gender and advocacy technology consultant. For more details, please see below! People from marginalised backgrounds are particularly encouraged to apply.   More

    11 September

  • Call for papers: ‘Imagine a Feminist Internet: Research, Practice and Policy in South Asia’

    What opportunities does technology provide to question and, ultimately, start changing gender norms? In February 2019, Point of View and the Internet Democracy Project are organising ‘Imagine a Feminist Internet: South Asia’: a two-day regional conference bringing together researchers, practitioners and policymakers from across South Asia for critical conversations that seek to answer precisely that question. We invite papers from both young scholars and established researchers from South Asia to contribute to this conference and inspire the debates.   More

    19 Nov 2018

  • India’s data protection draft ignores key next-generation rights

    (This article was first published in Asia Times. You can find the link to the original article here.) In the last week of July, two events happened in rapid succession: the release of India’s much-awaited draft data-protection legislation, and a breaking news story that Watson, IBM’s computing system that helps physicians recommend individualized cancer treatments, …   More

    21 Aug 2018

  • Rangoli as a way to explore networks

    “Break it down.” “Lose the jargon.” “No, you may not borrow any more salt and pepper shakers and move them around!” Sound familiar? As digital rights advocates and activists, there are many occasions where we discuss networks — how the internet works, who are the entities involved in the delivery of a message, what’s the problem with …   More

    30 Nov 2017

  • Policing online abuse or policing women? Our submission to the United Nations on online violence against women

    The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Its Causes and Consequences (‘SRVAW’) issued a call for input and information on online violence against women – particularly on the manner in which legal frameworks, courts and intermediaries in different countries recognise online abuse and provide redressal mechanisms for the same. The Internet Democracy Project made a submission outlining India’s fairly comprehensive legal framework for online abuse. We believe that the focus of all stakeholders should not be on the creation of more laws to address online abuse, since such an approach disregards the influence of prevailing social norms on the interpretation and implementation of laws in India. We therefore, made suggestions for the adoption of more non-legal measures instead.

    Report 07 Nov 2017

  • IGF 2016: A tale of victories – and new challenges

    Dr. Anja Kovacs from the Internet Democracy Project attended the Internet Governance Forum, 2016, at Guagalajara, Mexico, with the support of the Association for Progressive Communications. This post details highlights of the forum for her: there have been important gains in the debate with regards to gender and economic, social and cultural rights, but is the space for civil society at the cybersecurity table shrinking? Read on for more. This post was originally published on Association for Progressive Communications’ blog.   More

    03 Feb 2017

  • The naked truth: Why banning online pornography is a bad idea

    With inputs from Richa Kaul Padte In recent months, the calls for a complete ban on pornography, as well as for the criminalisation of consumption of pornography, have fast been growing louder, and both Parliament and the Supreme Court are now studying such proposals. To their credit, the government has been careful in its responses …   More

    02 Aug 2013

  • Keeping women safe? Gender, online harassment and Indian law

    From sexual harassment to rape threats to gender-based hate speech, women face disproportionate levels of abuse online. This briefing paper by Richa Kaul Padte and Anja Kovacs asks: how and to what extent can the law in India help? And what amendments could be made to the law to improve support for women in their fight against online abuse? We investigate. (A shorter version of this paper has been published in EPW (Economic and Political Weekly), 29 June 2013).

    Report 29 Jun 2013

  • ‘Don’t Let It Stand!’ An Exploratory Study of Women and Verbal Online Abuse in India.

    THIS REPORT WAS CO-AUTHORED BY DR. ANJA KOVACS, RICHA KAUL PADTE AND SHOBHA SV. Giving rise to new ways to exercise the right to freedom of expression, to the potential of fluid identities and to new ways to interact for those with limited offline opportunities, the democratisation of societies through the Internet is a phenomenon many have celebrated. But in reality, the hierarchies of the real world are all too often not effaced in the virtual world; instead, they are reborn and reconstructed in such a way that new mediums become the sites for old discriminations. Despite the Internet’s empowering potential, the gender-based hierarchies, violences, and manifestations of discrimination that women (or people who do not define their genders as singularly male) must face on a daily basis are also paralleled online, in India as elsewhere. This paper seeks to explore the different forms of verbal abuse that women who are publicly vocal on online platforms in India face; the non-legal and legal strategies that they use to deal with such abuse; and the relationship of both with offline contexts that have shaped women’s experiences for centuries. As we will see, whatever cyberspace purported characterists, women’s bodies and sexuality, and the negotiation of the public and the private deeply affect their virtual existence as much as it does their offline being. To read the full report, please click on the download button

    Report 29 Apr 2013

  • Gendered abuse online - #EROTICSIndia

    This blog post is eighth in a series of ten blog posts to report on the EROTICS India workshop, recently concluded in Delhi. So you’ve got proper online security, strong passwords, and great software all good to go. But are there other kinds of threats you may face online? What about abuse, verbal violence and …   More

    22 Mar 2013

  • Passwords: Your first line of defence - #EROTICSIndia

    This blog post is sixth in a series of ten blog posts to report on the EROTICS India workshop, recently concluded in Delhi. A password is your first line of defence – for your computer, email, and information. So firstly, make sure your computer is password protected (under the ‘admin’ account option), so your prying …   More

    20 Mar 2013

  • #MisogynyAlert: Principles for engagement

    BY ANAND PHILIP This blog post by Anand Philip was originally posted on his blog. It suggests questions that need to be addressed to move forward constructively with regard to the use of the hash tag #MisogynyAlert, which emerged as a possible strategy to deal with online abuse at a National Consultation on Women and …   More

    19 Mar 2013

  • #MisogynyAlert: A critique

    BY RANJANI K. This blog post by Ranjani K. was originally posted on her blog. It is a critical analysis of the use of the hash tag #MisogynyAlert which emerged as a possible strategy to deal with online abuse at a National Consultation on Women and Gendered Online Abuse held by the Internet Democracy Project and Point of View at New Delhi. …   More

    19 Mar 2013

  • Mechanics and governance of the Internet - #EROTICSIndia

    This blog post is fourth in a series of ten blog posts to report on the EROTICS India workshop, recently concluded in Delhi. ‘It’s like a library.’ ‘But it’s not organised - it’s chaotic. That’s just the impression you get.’ ‘An electromagnetic web of information.’ ‘It’s the tech equivalent of a collective consciousness.’ ‘It’s basically …   More

    18 Mar 2013

  • Women, sexuality and the Internet - #EROTICSIndia

    This blog post is third in a series of ten blog posts to report on the EROTICS India workshop, recently concluded in Delhi. ‘We believe everybody uses the Internet in the same way – and that couldn’t be further from the truth’ – Maya Ganesh, Tactical Technology Collective Within the arena of ‘women, sexuality and …   More

    15 Mar 2013

  • #EROTICSIndia: Meet the Participants

    This blog post is first in a  series of ten blog posts to report on the EROTICS India workshop, recently concluded in Delhi. All the blog posts in this series are written by Richa Kaul Padte, the official rapporteur of the meeting For boys it’s like, ‘Take it apart, put it back together, play with …   More

    11 Mar 2013

  • “What is your price for the night?”: From “sexual strangers” to “sexual citizens” using ICTs

    EROTICS - which stands for Exploratory Research on Sexuality and ITCs (same as ICTs)- is a global project that attempts to explore how marginalized sections are using the Internet and the ICTs, at large, to assert their sexual rights. The India chapter, #EROTICSIndia, was organised in Delhi recently by the Internet Democracy Project in collaboration with South Africa …   More

    05 Mar 2013

  • Why we need a #MisogynyAlert hashtag on the Net

    BY KIRAN MANRAL This article by Kiran Manral, very slightly edited to fit our website, first appeared on Tehelka blog. Kiran Manral is an author, blogger and media consultant. She is also the founder of India Helps, a volunteer network which works with disaster victims, and is part of the core team that has worked …   More

    04 Mar 2013

  • The Praagaash Row: An attack on free speech

    It all started when The Kashmir Walla, an online magazine, reported that Kashmir’s first and only girls’ rock band “quit” after “criticism”. While expressing gratitude to The Kashmir Walla for flagging the story, I pointed out that their choice of words may have been problematic. The girls quit, not because of “criticism” - they had …   More

    08 Feb 2013

  • Section 66A, sexual harassment and women’s rights

    Kapil Sibal, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, has argued that section 66A of the IT (Amendment) Act, 2008 is needed to fight harrassment and abuse of women online. Is he correct? What is Section 66A?  Section 66A of the IT (Amendment) Act, 2008 prohibits the sending of offensive messages though a communication device (i.e. …   More

    10 Dec 2012

  • The Internet, democracy and the feminist movement

    With both online censorship and surveillance dramatically on the rise worldwide, it is increasingly clear that we are witnessing a hollowing out not only of the empowering potential of the internet but also of democracy as a political system. To reverse these intertwined trends, they urgently require sustained and systematic attention. Feminists are uniquely placed to weigh in on these debates thanks to their rich insight in and long and intimate engagement with theories and practices of democracy. Feminists’ contributions to internet governance are essential if we are to prevent the empowering potential of the internet – which is real – from largely evaporating in mistaken policy choices over the next decade. This report was originally published in ‘Critically Absent: Women’s Rights in Internet Governance’ by the Association for Progressive Communications, South Africa, 2012.

    Report 14 Apr 2012

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