Monday, December 9, 2013

Panel Discussion: Digital Media, Gender Violence, Privacy and Freedom

Kalyani Narayanan, Harini Calamur, Gayatri Buragohain and Dr Anja Kovacs at the panel discussion

What's the difference between maintaining 'privacy' on a social network, and resorting to being a shrinking violet? Is anonymity helpful, or simply a tool for abuse? How has digital media empowered women? And what are the rules of engagement on the Internet? Issues like these were the focus of the Panel Discussion on Digital Media, Gender Violence, Privacy and Freedom, organised by Prajnya 16 Days Campaign Against Gender Violence 2013, in association with eWIT, on December 9, 2013.

"Many women are online because they can remain anonymous," said Dr Anja Kovacs, Director of The Internet Democracy Project. "While anonymity is used by several people to post abusive content online, it is also used by those who find it difficult to speak about several issues using their real identity. Usually, they do not find support from family for their activities online, and therefore they have greater freedom of expression when anonymous," she stressed. The positives of being anonymous on the web override the negative, according to Dr Anja. 

But what about Trolls? How do you tackle them? "The answer is to have the backing of a supportive online community," said Dr Anja. 

The accessibility of digital media in enabling women to express themselves is another issue that the speakers stressed on. Harini Calamur, head of Digital Content at Zee Media said, "As technology evolves and becomes more user friendly, I'm seeing more women starting to use this technology to enter into what were previously considered male dominated fields. For example, films, especially editing. A lot more women are now taking up careers in editing because the technology is more accessible. And digital media empowers them further."

"But one of the biggest problems we face today is that men don't know their limits while engaging with women online," said Gayatri Buragohain, Founder of Feminist Approach to Technology and Co-Founder of Joint Leap Technologies. "A comment like 'you're sexy' is not okay for many, while it may not be considered offensive by others. You must know where to draw the line with whom, and not cross it," she added.

"Today, gender roles are changing," said Harini. "While that means that women are no longer restricted to one kind of work, it also means men are confused about their role in society. We need to have more dialogue to address this as well."

The panel discussion was co-ordinated by Kalyani Narayanan, the former President of eWIT, and Vice-President of ICM Computer Consultants.

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