The Daily Observer in a Law Talk with Rezaur Rahman Lenin
TDO: How can we achieve gender equality in the digital space of 'Digital Bangladesh'?
RRL: In the last few years, digital rights activists from the global north encouraged netizens to get online, to use new technologies that could be used to connect and mobilize social movements, advocates rights and bring worlds together in a quick and responsive way.
Obviously, the key message from rights activists instigate us to ask a pertinent question to ourselves, what is 'digital space' or 'digital rights' mean for women and their rights advocates in 'Digital Bangladesh'? Questioning with good intention is crucial when the internet and traditional media reinforce objectifying, demeaning and disempowering images of women in Bangladesh.
Therefore, it is important to remember that the Women's Rights is not only about the female only, but the males of the society are also too under an obligation to uphold the women's rights and respect them as human first in digital space.
To end digital divide and ensure gender equality in the digital space, we should not advocate or prepare a list of 'to do' or 'don't do' or restricting our behaviours at all, rather expanding our digital space. All we need is to come out of the social stigma, state criminalization and should change our outlook for establishing gender equality not only in the digital space but also in every aspect of our lives.
TDO: What kind of planning may ensure gender equality and safe community in digital space? How can we make sure that women's and girls' needs and experiences are integrated at the very inception of technology and innovations?
RRL: In Bangladesh, with the introduction of mobile phones, Internet and communication technologies and their increasingly ubiquitous reach to the 'urban, middle class, resourced people and their defenders' are beginning to see the possibilities of using the internet and digital channels for advocacy, communication and information sharing.
Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) input and participation in technology, telecommunication and information communication channels to ensure women's rights along with other constitutionally granted fundamental rights, such as the right to privacy or freedom of expressions are not highly encouraged.
There is a strong need to explore the legal and administrative mechanisms which provide protections from cyberbullying, hate speech, gendering surveillance, sexual harassments and other forms of abuse over the digital space against the women right's defenders, bloggers and netizens.
Since women rights defenders are not encouraged in the digital domain in Bangladesh and the right to privacy or free speech is not being multi- ensured, traditional and mainstream stakeholders tend to remain silent rather than claiming their right to be engaged on women's rights issues in the digital age and to ensure Internet freedom countrywide.
It is also important to note that even the government policies and initiatives are not providing adequate opportunities to engage and ensure 'human rights-based approach' to enhance this sector itself.
Therefore, it is important to introduce a human rights-based approach into digital space to ensure gender equality and a safe community.