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Access to the internet is not considered a luxury anymore, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic that revealed the importance of connected societies and the important roles that technology and the internet play in them. But while this significance cannot be contested, in small pockets of communities and households, the internet continues to be a luxury for most people for various reasons, be it rooted in the lack of financial resources, absence of infrastructure to enable access, or political and/or patriarchal control. Individuals are refused access to the internet based on where they are located, their socioeconomic conditions, or whether the governments, security agencies or the patriarchs of the house consider it appropriate to allow this access. In a lot of instances, this access is denied only on the basis of how the society is structured.

And much like everything else, this lack of digital access has impacted women and LGBTIQA+ folks significantly more than cisgender heterosexual men in conservative communities in Asia. The impact of this, though known, is severely underreported and hence, not the priority of policies and law-making agendas. 

The violence that LGBTIQA+ folks and women face bars them from narrating their experiences on public platforms without being subjected to more violence, historically patriarchal sexist violence, both psychological and physical, online and offline. This discrimination is also evident in the way technology is accessed by and/or denied to these people, and its impact. Where technology is known to serve its users in a way that leads to advancement of circumstances of their lives, refusal of this access, on the other hand, blatantly denies them this advancement, keeping them away not only from equally participating in various industries economically, but also for entertainment and information seeking.

Reasons for this refusal can be manifold, and the impact of lack of access can significantly vary between individuals, groups and communities. For some it could be a slight inconvenience, while for others, it could be a matter of losing opportunities, and for others, a matter of life and death.

This edition collects stories of individuals and communities from South and Southeast Asia discussing the impact of the gender digital divide, and how they respond to the challenges and barriers.

In this edition:

  • Editorial – Access denied: Gender digital divide as a form of violence in South and Southeast Asia

  • Afghan queer community’s access to the internet is a double edged sword under Taliban rule

  • Commodifying yourself for digital access in Malaysia

  • Shattering women’s futures: Evidence of patriarchal control of the cybersphere in Sri Lanka

  • In conversation: Online violence bars women and LGBTIQ+ folks' access to the internet in Myanmar

  • Women's community radio: How islanders and mountain residents are coping with the impact of COVID-19 in rural Indonesia

  • Patriarchal control as hindrance to digital access for women in Pakistan

Read the full edition here.

Cover image: Illustration by Mashaal Sajid for