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Silencing women in the digital age*

Louise Arimatsu

Keywords: silence; gender; patriarchy; digital technologies; online violence against women; CEDAW

In this paper I explore some of the ways in which developments in new digital technologies reproduce, and often amplify, the patriarchal structures, practices and culture of contemporary life and, in doing so, operate to silence women through exclusion and through violence. I consider how international human rights law – most notably the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) – can be harnessed to counter both forms of silencing in that each is rooted in gender-based discrimination. The digital gender divide and the rise in online violence against women evidences the failure on the part of States Parties to fully commit to their legal obligations pursuant to CEDAW. Ensuring equality of access to, and use of, digital technologies cannot be anything other than the preconditions to ensuring that women can benefit from, contribute to, and influence the development of digital technologies in a meaningful manner. The digital realm may be a privatised public space that warrants a reconceptualisation of the scope and content of human rights law but the fact that much of the digital infrastructure is owned and controlled by private actors does not absolve States of their human rights responsibilities.

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