By Caroline Tagny for APC News
In the first phase of the EROTICS project, research was conducted in Brazil, Lebanon, India, South Africa and the US with marginalized sections of society who use the internet to exercise their sexual rights. This research produced much needed insights into what women and marginalized sexual minorities make of this emerging public sphere, but also exposed threats that can be obstacles to their participation in creating critical information and debates around sexuality.
In India, a study was conducted by Maya Ganesh and Manjima Bhattacharjya, focusing on women and especially young people. It found that the middle-class women surveyed were well aware of the freedoms and the dangers of the internet. Due to social constraints in regards to relationship and sexuality, women looked to the internet as being a liberating space to chat, flirt and mingle with the opposite sex (though their use of online spaces were qualified as conservative by Ganesh and Bhattacharjya). Women were nevertheless very conscious of their online behaviour being monitored by other people such as family members and were concerned about the consequences that their online actions could have on their offline lives. Queer-identified respondents felt that the internet provides immeasurable freedoms – particularly when under conditions of criminalisation or cultural repression – to find partners, social networks and activist communities. Participants also identified online threats to their safety and security such as harassment in chat rooms, being subjected to blackmail by other users or having their personal profiles hacked.
The second phase of the EROTICS project is now under way since May 2012 and aims to take the research produced in the first phase to build a network of internet and sexual rights advocates who are able to share expertise and collaboratively respond to internet content regulation. In this context APC, in partnership with Point of View and the Internet Democracy Project, is conducting a workshop in Delhi, India, from 25 – 28 February 2013. More than 20 sexual and internet rights organisations will be discussing throughout this workshop ways to resist content regulation and increasing their knowledge of online security and privacy. In addition, this workshop will contribute to building a network of activists for sexual rights, feminism, women’s rights and the internet who will share information, provide support and take collective action on the regulation of sexuality and the internet in India.