Last updated on Nov 24, 2017.
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Our understanding of demographic discrepancies of social media usage is generally limited to age. We assume that young people are Facebook addicts, while older people possess a phobia of the social networking site. While it is true that generational divisions have, in fact, guided and continue to guide the way we use social media and the Internet in general, however, we cannot ignore another crucial factor as well – gender.
India has one of the highest number of Internet users in the world, with more than a quarter of its population online. Out of this total number, only about twenty five percent are women. Most women are left offline for a variety of reasons, due to which they are not able to engage in conversations, participate in Internet governance and are even left out from building and designing technology. Bridging the digital gender gap is of utmost importance, otherwise the county's aggressive push toward a digital economy will further entrench the marginalisation of women in the social and political sectors.
It is not uncommon for women to be at the receiving end of violence while voicing their opinions in online spaces and participating in political and feminist debates. There have been innumerable incidents when women who spoke up on social media platforms received sustained abuse in the form of body shaming and sexist speech resulting in many leaving these platforms. Such incidents shed light on how a woman’s presence in an online space threatens the status quo which would go to any length, including resorting to violence, to constrain a woman’s views to the private sphere. Hence, the issue of gender gap in the online world is not limited to access and use, but needs further addressing to create a space where women can participate without fear of violence. Only when this is successfully achieved, the true potential of the Internet can be realised - a space for education, mobilisation and self-expression.
We’ll discuss the possible reasons why women are left offline in India and what we could do to better the situation.
We will begin the session with a discussion on why women are left offline, why the tech industry is predominantly male and how women lack real choices in the online world. We will also present a slide show and discuss ways to address the issue of online harassment. The last leg of session would deal with how to engage more women in online conversations, including policy making. The entire session will be interactive in nature.
We will prepare a report of all the key suggestions and ideas identified in the session and shall share the same on our website. We would also create a shared etherpad for comments and collaborations.
Priyanka Chaudhuri is a lawyer working for Software Freedom Law Centre, India (SFLC.in). Her areas of expertise include Constitutional law, Technology law and Human Rights. At SFLC.in, she is involved in policy and research work, particularly in the areas of Freedom of Speech and Expression, Privacy, Data Protection and Intermediary Liability. She is particularly interested in issues concerning womens’ empowerment.
Tripti Jain is a Counsel at SFLC.in, She is involved in various projects that includes research and advisory on a variety of issues such as privacy rights, civil rights, trademarks and copyrights.
Before joining SFLC.in, Tripti was assisting Former Chief Election Commissioner of India, Dr. S.Y Quraishi on a research project pertaining to numerous issues plaguing South Asian democracies. She wants to work towards the country’s developmental agenda.