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 importance that technology and the internet plays 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, political and/or patriarchal control. Individuals are refused access to the internet based on where they are located, their socio-economic 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 LGBTQI+ 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 lawmaking agenda.
The violence that the LGBTQIA+ 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 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 gender digital divide, and how they respond to the challenges and barriers.