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23 February 2024 | Updated on 23 February 2024

In Sudan, the conflict-affected political, social and economic context has impacted women's access to the internet. New research by Hopes and Actions Foundation for the Feminist Internet Research Network looks into the barriers that hinder women's access to the internet, freedom of expression and active participation in technology. "Barriers are not limited to infrastructure issues, but include social, cultural and political factors at the national and international level," the study finds.

Government regulations, online gender-based violence and US sanctions against Sudan among key factors

What are the main barriers to women's access to and use of the internet in Sudan? This research underlines the following factors: social construct of gender norms, power dynamics, personal status law, government regulations, lack of gender-sensitive regulations, online gender-based violence, and US sanctions against Sudan.

In the private sphere, access to the internet often involves domestic violence. Young girls are forced to be supervised by family members, and married women are also being watched by their husbands online, which can result in divorce, beatings and other types of abuse, findings reveal.

In South Kordofan, women face internet shutdowns due to the ongoing intercommunal conflicts. Participants said they were neophytes when it came to the internet and its usage and that they struggled to create content due to government surveillance and restrictions on freedom of expression across the country. 

The research also shows that certain groups of women are more targeted on social media. Intersecting factors including age, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, occupation, physical appearance, physical/mental ability, and nature of activities on social media. Younger women political activists who come from marginalised ethnic groups are more vulnerable to online gender-based violence. 

A majority of the victims refrain from filing a formal complaint for various reasons, including social stigma and lack of awareness about their rights and lack of trust in the judicial system. 

The US trade embargo on Sudan has affected mobile network operators' access to crucial technologies to maintain telecom infrastructure. This leads telecom operators to buy equipment and software through third-party companies, which directly increases cost of operation because these entities in turn inflate their prices twofold, impacting the internet bundle cost in a country that sees a high rate of poverty among women.

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