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APC welcomes this opportunity to contribute to the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and values the focus of the OHCHR on the question of ways to bridge the gender digital divide from a human rights perspective. APC is an international network and non-profit organisation founded in 1990 that works to help ensure everyone has access to a free and open internet to improve lives and create a more just world. APC’s Women’s Rights Programme, both a programme within APC and a network of women throughout the world, is committed to using technology for women’s empowerment. We promote gender equality in the design, implementation, access and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and in the policy decisions and frameworks that regulate them. APC advocates for internet policy and regulation that enable the promotion and protection of human rights, women’s rights and the rights of people of diverse sexualities, particularly when those rights are threatened or violated by states and private sector actors.
The gender digital divide is both a symptom and cause of violations of women’s human rights. It is a symptom in that the discrimination that women face on the basis of social and cultural norms is one of the most pronounced causes of the gender digital divide. To put it simply, all disparities in internet access sit in other disparities that women face in society, be they based on location, economic power, age, gender, racial or ethnic origin, social and cultural norms, education, or other factors. It is a cause of violations of women’s human rights because the internet can be a critical enabler of human rights, and the gender divide leaves women who are without meaningful internet access less equipped to exercise their human rights and participate in public life/society. Therefore, a human rights-based approach to bridging the gender digital divide must be rooted in principles of accountability, equality and non-discrimination, participation, transparency, empowerment and sustainability, and also address the underlying context in which women live, which involves multiple and intersecting barriers to exercising their human rights.
This submission addresses the following areas:
The nature of the gender digital divide
Human rights implications of the gender digital divide for women and girls, including censorship and violence against women
Possible solutions for bridging the gender digital divide from a human rights perspective, highlighting APC’s policy advocacy work atimed at this goal and other APC work around women’s rights and internet access.