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Tuesday, December 19 • 15:00 - 16:30
Combating Online Violence Against Politically-Active Women (WS166)

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Proposer's Name: Ms. Kirsten Zeiter
Proposer's Organization: National Democratic Institute (NDI)
Co-Proposer's Name: Ms. Amanda Domingues
Co-Proposer's Organization: National Democratic Institute (NDI)
Ms.,Amanda, Domingues, Civil Society, National Democratic Institute
Ms.,Sandra,Pepera, Civil Society, National Democratic Institute 

Session Format: Panel - 90 Min

Country: United States
Stakeholder Group: Civil Society

Country: United States
Stakeholder Group: Civil Society

Speaker: Nathan Matias
Speaker: Soraya Chemaly
Speaker: Nighat Dad
Speaker: David Kaye

Content of the Session:
This session will be a multi-sector panel discussion about strategies for understanding and combating online violence against politically-active women. Online harassment of politically-active women is one form of the global problem of violence against women in politics (VAW-P), and can result in women choosing not to participate in leadership or political debates, and ultimately not to express their opinion. The resulting limitation of both the number of women able to participate and the range of issues discussed poses a fundamental challenge to democracy, progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment, as well as to the integrity of the information space. The panel will engage experts from multiple sectors including digital activism, women's empowerment, technology, and international governance, to discuss methods for building international understanding of this issue and identifying strategies for combating it.

Relevance of the Session:
As political discourse increasingly shifts online, a free, open and inclusive internet where all citizens can engage in dialogue is critical to modern democracy. However, in too many places, citizens’ ability to engage in political discourse online is under threat by online activity by individuals and organizations that seek to silence or exclude the voices of women and other marginalized groups, such as online violence against politically-active women. This type of activity can have the devastating impact of driving women, and especially young women, away from online political discourse - ultimately undermining the integrity of the information space and of democratic culture and practice. This issue pertains directly to the IGF 2017 main theme, "Shape Your Digital Future," because if women, and especially young women, are not able to participate equally in online spaces due to online violence, they will not be able to be part of the decision-making that shapes their digital future.

Tag 1: Gender Issues
Tag 2: Digital Inclusion
Tag 3: Human Rights Online

This panel will facilitate discussion between multiple experts across sectors, who can leverage their expertise in gender equality, civic technologies, and internet governance to discuss how to understand and combat online violence against politically-active women. Each speaker will share their perspective and experience with this issue, the approaches they have employed, the challenges that remain, and next steps for understanding and combating online violence against politically-active women. Specifically, Nathan Matias will discuss his technical research on factors that contribute to fair participation online, and approaches to large scale experiments on reducing harassment online. Soraya Chemaly will contribute her perspective as a leading writer, activist, and advocate for curbing online abuse, media and tech diversity, and expanding women's freedom of expression. Nighat Dad is the Executive Director of Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan. She is an accomplished lawyer and a human rights activist. Nighat Dad is the Executive Director of Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan. She is an accomplished lawyer and a human rights activist. Nighat Dad will share her experience as a pioneer campaigning around access to open internet in Pakistan and globally, campaigning and engaging at a policy level on issues focusing on Internet Freedom, Women and technology, Digital Security and Women’s empowerment. As UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expressions, David Kaye will provide insight into intergovernmental approaches to combating online violence against politically-active women, particularly as it pertains to issues of freedom of expression. Together, these perspectives and experiences will contribute to a nuanced and multi-faceted discussion that takes into account multiple sectors, regions, and stakeholder groups.

The speakers and moderator of the panel represent varying genders, geographic backgrounds, age groups, stakeholder group, and policy perspectives. To further facilitate diversity and participant interaction, the discussion also plans for digital participation and engagement. The panel moderator will further take every effort to ensure diversity in participation during the Q&A / discussion session at the conclusion of the panel, to ensure a variety of voices have the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the discussion.

Onsite Moderator: Sandra Pepera, Civil Society, National Democratic Institute
Online Moderator: Amanda Domingues, Civil Society, National Democratic Institute
Rapporteur: Kirsten Zeiter, Civil Society, National Democratic Institute

Online Participation:
This panel will be livestreamed in Washington, DC for civil society, democracy and governance, and women's empowerment experts. Twitter will also be used to promote the panel discussion and facilitate live interaction with an international audience. Our online moderator, Amanda Domingues, will participate online as well and feed questions from these participants up to the panel in real time in order to develop a robust global discussion.

Discussion facilitation:
Moderated by Sandra Pepera, each speaker will have the opportunity to share their perspectives on raising awareness of and combating online violence against politically-active women. In order to facilitate a lively dialogue between the speakers, Ms. Pepera will open the floor to allow each speaker to share their perspectives through a series of guiding questions. There will be opportunity throughout the panelist discussion for panelists to interact with one-another and address points raised by the panel. Following this, there will be time for questions and discussion from the audience within IGF and through online participation.

Conducted a Workshop in IGF before?: No
Link to Report: 

Additional Speakers: 

Dr. Dubravka Šimonović (confirmed in principle)
United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women

Ms. Dubravka Šimonovic was appointed as United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences in June 2015 by the UN Human Rights Council for an initial three years' tenure (maximum tenure of six years). She started her tenure on 1 August 2015.

Ms. Šimonović was a member of the CEDAW Committee between 2002 and 2014, and served as its Chairperson in 2007 and 2008, its follow-up Rapporteur from 2009 to 2011 and as the Chairperson of the Optional Protocol Working Group in 2011.

For a number of years she headed the Human Rights Department at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Croatia and was posted as the Minister Plenipotentiary at the Permanent Mission of Croatia to the United Nations in New York.  She was also the Ambassador to the OSCE and United Nations in Vienna, Austria. She was the Chairperson of the UN Commission on the Status of Women between 2001 and 2002 and also worked as a member of the UNIFEM Consultative Committee. Ms Šimonović served on the UN Women Advisory panel producing the report Progress of the World’s Women: In pursuit of Justice.

At the regional level she was the Chair and Vice Chair of the Council of Europe’s Task Force to combat violence against women, including domestic violence in 2006 and 2007.  Between 2008 and 2010, she co-chaired the Ad hoc Committee (CAHVIO) that elaborated the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.

Ms. Šimonović holds a PhD in family law from the University of Zagreb. She is the author of several books and articles on women’s rights and violence against women. She also lectured at the Harvard Law School, Nottingham University, Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights (University of Cincinnati) and at the Women’s Human Rights Training Institute organized by the Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation.

Dr Dubravka Šimonovic is a Visiting Professor in Practice in the Centre for Women, Peace and Security at LSE.


Welcome and Introduction: Sandra Pepera (moderator) (10 minutes)

Panelist Interventions (35 minutes, 7 minutes for each speaker)
- Dr. Dubravka Šimonović 
- Soraya Chemaly
- Nathan Mathias
- Nighat Dad
- David Kaye

Moderator-Guided follow-up questions (15 minutes)
Audience Questions and Discussion (30 minutes)




Session Organizers

Tuesday December 19, 2017 15:00 - 16:30 CET
Room XXII - E United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG)