Access Denied: Gender Digital Divide As A Form Of Violence in South and Southeast Asia

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.

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Editorial

Access Denied: Gender Digital Divide As A Form Of Violence in South and Southeast Asia

Despite the boom in the usage of the internet and technology in the past few decades, gender digital divide continues to be a hindrance around the world that bars women, non-binary and gender diverse people from accesssing the full potential of this communication marvel. As a result, they are left behind as the world, led by cisgender heterosexual men, moves forward, making structural gendered inequalities all the more severe than they already are.

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Afghan Queer Community’s Access to The Internet Is A Double Edged Sword Under Taliban Rule

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Commodifying Yourself For Digital Access in Malaysia

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In Conversation: Online Violence Bars Women and LGBTQI+ Folks' Access to the Internet in Myanmar

Sexism, misogyny and homophobia bars women and gender-diverse folks' access to the internet in Myanmar, leading to violence to continue to perpetuate without any repercussions for perpertrators. In this podcast, Nandar talks to a digital security expert about experiences of vulnerable people on the internet.

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Shattering Women’s Futures: Evidence Of Patriarchal Control Of The Cybersphere In Sri Lanka

Patriarchal control on digital access in Sri Lanka continues to keep women away from opportunities and connections, creating a sense of alienation amongst them. Zinara Rathnayake discusses how family restrictions on the ownership and usage of the internet and smartphones impact Sri Lankan women.

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Patriarchal Control As Hindrance To Digital Access for Women in Pakistan

Patriarchal restrictions on internet access lead to impacts that affect all aspects of women's lives in Pakistan. This familial control is not only detrimental to their economic and educational growth, but also is a threat to their safety and health. In this series of illustrations, Aniqa Haider sheds light on the impact of gender digital divide in Pakistan.

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Women's Community Radio: How Islanders And Mountain Residents Are Coping With The Impact Of Covid-19 in Rural Indonesia

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the digital divide that exists in rural Indonesia as the world moved to technology for everyday needs and tasks. The residents of the villages set up community radios to address this gap, which then helped in addressing many economic, educational, communication and entertainment needs of the residents.