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32nd Session of the Human Rights Council

Annual Full-Day Discussion on the Human Rights of Women (HRC res. 6/30, 23/25 and 26/15)

Oral statement by the Association for Progressive Communications, delivered by Jac sm Kee

The Association for Progressive Communications welcomes the prioritisation of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in Goal 5 of the 2030 Agenda, in particular, recognition of the need to enhance the use of enabling technology, especially information and communications technologies (ICTs), to achieve this as a clear target. Access to and control over ICTs have been identified by researchers and policy makers as central to the empowerment of women and girls.

From women in Uganda running profitable businesses with the help of their mobile phones, to young women in India accessing websites that allow them to make more informed decisions about their sexual health, there are many documented cases that demonstrate ICTs’ importance in efforts to end discrimination, achieve gender equality and realise the full spectrum of the human rights of women and girls.

However, there still persists a digital gender gap that is expressed in multiple dimensions. From unequal access to basic internet infrastructure (in both public access facilities and personal access devices), to affordability of connectivity. Existing gender disparities including in digital literacy and uneven capacities among women and girls to use ICTs for their needs and priorities also act as barriers. This is compounded by specific gender-based challenges and discrimination, including the availability of relevant content, censorship of content related to gender and sexuality, and gender-based violence, both online and offline.

As such, measures to enhance the use of ICTs by women and girls require a human rights approach, that is located within economic, social, political and cultural contexts, and which recognises existing inequalities and the intersectionality of discrimination. This includes addressing gender literacy gaps, collection of gender-disaggregated data on internet access, promoting diverse content and expression by women and girls, ensuring women’s full participation in decision making at all levels, including in the use, design, development and governance of ICTs, and developing policies that ask not just how we can improve access, but to what end.