How are APC members improving their communities’ lives? In this column we’re highlighting stories of impact and change by our members, supported by APC subgranting. In India, Point of View has been contributing groundbreaking and creative research exploring the intersection between technology and sexuality, and shifting online norms toward empowerment for marginalised genders.
Based in Mumbai, Point of View (POV) was established 25 years ago to work on gender and sexual rights issues in India. It started its partnership with APC in 2011 through APC’s Women’s Rights Programme (WRP) and received a subgrant through the Exploratory Research on Sexuality and the Internet (EROTICS) network. Since that time, POV has been an active member of APC and recently its executive director Bishakha Datta served on APC’s board as chairperson.
POV’s reports, research and campaigns have made meaningful contributions toward building and amplifying the voices of women and other marginalised genders and removing barriers to voice, speech and expression across India. Through analysis, media, art and technology, POV has been producing information and advocating with civil society to build capacity and understanding so that all genders and sexualities have rights and freedoms.
Imagining gender empowerment in digital spaces
In 2019, POV used the Feminist Principles of the Internet (FPIs) in organising the convening Imagine a Feminist Internet: South Asia. Implemented with the vision of “shifting online norms to enable women, girls and other marginalised genders to actively participate in digital spaces with agency, autonomy, dignity”, the event was able to achieve broader outcomes by using an APC subgrant to complement a main grant from another donor, thereby nearly doubling the number of participants and reaching beyond India in its scope. This kind of flexibility can be useful and practical for organisations, helping them address specific needs related to their work and strengthening their impact. As Datta noted, “The subgrant is good for testing seed ideas.”
In the case of the Imagine a Feminist Internet convening, POV was able to focus its efforts on examining how policy can support gender norm change while also highlighting the critical role of social movements for promoting and supporting gender. This is particularly pressing considering that “human rights defenders, women and gender minorities often face severe consequences for speaking up online, as well as the current regional climate of heavy political crackdown on dissenters.” To that end, having the project supported by a subgrant helped POV move toward its goal of building “transformative, collective feminist interventions that will enable women and other marginalised genders to challenge normative digitally networked spaces and fully participate in them.”
Exploring body liminality, privacy and data
In 2018, POV contributed significant research to an initiative by the Internet Democracy Project looking at data protection and privacy through a feminist lens. With the understanding that artificial intelligence has become prevalent across society, they made a substantial contribution to policy debates on data governance, using a feminist framework to rethink concepts of privacy and data.
This critical research, supported by an APC small grant, addressed a key research gap, according to Datta: “We need to start to think through anew what it means to protect our human rights at a time where data has become part of the boundaries of our bodies.” Within the context of this research it was noted that the oppression of women is connected to “restrictive expectations of privacy” and the “burden of ‘staying private’” at a time when surveillance and data collection are more widespread than ever.
Writing about sexualities and technology
POV’s groundbreaking research was also showcased in 2016, when they joined with writers in India to examine the intersection between sexuality and technology, creating a supportive space where gender-diverse people could explore issues that impact them directly through in-depth analysis and creativity. In the words of Datta, “We wanted to start a new online publication called Deep Dives: Sexing the Interwebs, and to use long-form narratives to really explore the intersection of gender, sexualities and digital technology.” Through a small grant, they engaged in topics such as “women and mobile phone gaming, a trans woman’s journey through porn, India’s asexuality networks, a day in the life of a sex worker, and disability and technology.”
The Deep Dives collection has been very well received, garnering media attention and even winning awards, and is continuing to make an impact with new research and thematic areas such as “Bodies of Evidence” and “Agency or Age?” As Datta explained, “Things are now moving fast. It takes academic research a while to catch up, so we felt a good way to produce knowledge was to do something more than short-form journalism, to fill the space in between that and academic articles.”
This piece is a version of a story highlighted in Continuing the conversation: Lessons from APC subgranting, a report that presents the findings of interviews and surveys of APC members and partners who were recipients of funding through its core subgranting programme, supported by Sida, and of subgrants offered through other APC projects and staff working on subgranting in the organisation.
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