Thank you, Mr. President. I make this statement on behalf of the Coalition of African Lesbians and the Sexual Rights Initiative.
We welcome the Special Rapporteur’s report and we note that it briefly addresses some of the gender-based violence that Women Human Rights Defenders face when organizing and collaborating online.
We would like to bring to the attention of the Special Rapporteur the impact of patriarchal hegemony and misogyny on women’s internet use and participation in online discussions. Offline misogyny is replicated online. Women who challenge patriarchal norms, or advocate for the rights of women online are often subjected to harassment, trolling, doxxing, threats of violence from physical assault, rape to death. The patriarchal mechanisms that work to silence women lived realities continue to operate in this digital space that has the power to change up media dynamics and narratives, and to help feminists organise around a myriad of issues. However, unless we find a way to eliminate violence against women online, these are powers that not all of us will be able to harness. Violence against women in online spaces is hampering our use and enjoyment of these public goods. Women’s ability to access public space has a direct impact on our ability to make informed and autonomous decisions in matters regarding our own bodies, lives and sexual and reproductive health rights.
There is a contradiction in the actions of States who say, on the one hand, that they do not have the capacity to hold to account perpetrators of online violence, while on the other hand detaining women human rights defenders for their online activities. At the same time, multinational corporations hold enough power to influence States and evade their action, making it harder to hold them accountable. In this sense, we highlight the report’s recommendation that “States should adopt and enforce laws and policies that focus on creating mandatory requirements for digital technology companies… [to] account for how they address their human rights impacts.” It is time to enact new ways at the international level to effectively hold multinational corporations accountable for their power.