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Is cyberspace a safe space for women and girls?

Author's name: 
Shawna Finnegan
Winnipeg, Canada

Today is #orangeday, a monthly campaign to raise global awareness on issues relevant to preventing and ending violence against women and girls. This year Orange Day activities are focused on recommendations from the 57th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which took place in March 2013. The theme for this July’s #orangeday is ‘Cyber space as safe space for women and girls’.

This campaign comes at an important time, as a new survey from APC’s EROTICS research indicates that 98% of activists see the internet as an important public sphere for advancing sexual rights. However 51% of sexual rights activists have suffered hate speech, censorship or privacy violations when using the internet as a medium to express sexuality. These violations will only increase, as recent revelations of US-based online surveillance, as well as surveillance in countries like Pakistan and Mexico threaten fundamental human rights to privacy, free expression, and peaceful assembly. According to the EROTICS survey, sexual rights activists from Africa and the Middle East face double risk compared to colleagues from elsewhere of being attacked by their governments because of their online activities.

How can we respond to these growing threats, and ensure the protection and promotion of women’s rights online? APC’s Women’s Rights Programme emphasises holistic, multi-stakeholder, and multi-sectoral mechanisms to prevent abuse and respond to violations. This requires capacity-building and engagement with a wide range of actors, and systematic reporting to monitor and address trends in technology-related forms of violence again women and girls. APC’s Take Back the Tech! campaign also emphasises women’s leadership in protecting their safety online, through securing online communications and mapping violations of women rights.

Cyberspace must be a safe space for women and girls. To do that, we need to build active online communities to take action against online violence against women. Join APC’s Take Back the Tech!, UN Women and other partners to raise awareness and find creative solutions to protect and promote women’s rights online, as well as offline.

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