APC, Istanbul, April 20 2012 – “Online Safety – Ask Me”. This is what the badges say, that an increasing number of women are wearing this week in Istanbul for a high-level International Women’s Forum. Recognised as one of the world’s most important gatherings of women rights activists, the 12th AWID (Association for Women’s Rights in Development) International Forum is starting to take up digital security as a serious feminist issue.
But why exactly is digital security a feminist issue in the first place? One participant commented: “As feminists, we challenge the status quo. That comes with a risk. You expose yourself online. Digital security should therefore be on the feminist agenda.”
“The feminist approach is about bringing the individual and the community into consideration,” added another participant. She provided the example of filtering and censorship, that in her view, many women’s groups accept, thinking that it will keep them safe. “I don’t want the government or telcos to decide how to make me safe,” she says.
Just before the AWID Forum, participants engaged in a workshop which included 30 people from six continents to discuss and debate digital security, threats and issues related to online campaigning. The ‘Connect Your Rights! Global Strategic Dialogue’ took place in Istanbul on April 16 and 17 and attracted participants from different civil society organisations such as Amnesty International, APC, AWID, the ‘Violence is Not Our Culture’ campaign, Witness.org and the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition. It is expected that the outcomes of the dialogue will loop-back into the AWID Forum.
Discussions were at times heated and passionate. A participant insisted that digital security has been ignored for too long been by women activists. “Women have been the object and subject of gender violence happening in the digital world. It’s sometimes more dangerous, since perpetrators are faceless in online spaces”.
The women attending the AWID Forum committed to work collaboratively on a Feminist framework of digital security, to be shared more widely in the future. The aim of the framework is to ensure that a systematic feminist analysis of internet spaces includes a set of criteria. A first draft circulating this week mentioned that digital security can’t be addressed without talking about violence against women, the technical infrastructure, the connection between the online and offline worlds and privacy.
All participants in Istanbul at the Connect Your Rights workshop recognised that the internet is a space for feminist struggle and that digital security is critically important. Bringing this message to the AWID Forum has broadened the number of feminists engaging with both internet rights and digital security from a feminist perspective.
The 12th Association for Women’s Rights in Development International Forum is held in Istanbul between April 19 and 22. www.awid.org
The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is an international network and non-profit organisation founded in 1990 that wants everyone to have access to a free and open internet to improve lives and create a more just world. www.apc.org