[bestbits] CIS' Statement on Sexual Harassment at ICANN55

nigidaad at gmail.com nigidaad at gmail.com
Mon Mar 21 11:32:03 EDT 2016

First of all, I would like to say I think that Ms Baruah is an incredibly brave woman for not only making her story public, but also for not giving up despite being discouraged to report the incident and CIS for issuing a statement on rather ignored issue within our own circles. I personally know many women who don’t report harassment because there is a lack of support and significant discouragement. Unfortunately, this leads to silencing and harassers are thus granted impunity. 

Ms Baruah’s statement betrays another reality that women in this field have to live with if they wish to continue working: her harasser was granted access to her space where he was allowed to make her uncomfortable by staring. I have lost count of the number of women who have spoken about this. Unless a strong accountability mechanism is enforced, the rate of reporting harassment will remain low. Women will not come forward unless they are guaranteed that they will not have to face their harasser until they are ready to. Furthermore, having to face a harasser is triggering and emotional exhaustion leads to giving up.

This incident should lead to reflection regarding harassment in our own tech community and development in general. 

Strong policies should not only be enforced, but should be culturally sensitive. For example, if women from a very patriarchal country report harassment to someone, they should not be asked to first officially report it legally. Some are unable to do so and will hesitate to do so due to lack of support. 

More than anything else, as a community, we need to reflect on how we got here and why. Perhaps some accountability on our own roles is necessary because men would not able to harass women so easily unless they knew they had impunity on some level. While it is heartening to see conversations taking place, I don’t believe we can have meaningful change unless we all collectively discuss how we got here in the first place. Why does the tech development industry have such a bad reputation when it comes to harassment? Surely it isn’t the result of a conspiracy against us.

Jac it would be great if we make this discussion happen at Gender Dynamic Coalition in next IGF and discuss how to address the issue of sexual harassment not only restricted to spaces like ICANN and IGF but within our own community. 

My two cents..

Nighat Dad 
Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan. 

Sent from my iPhone

> On 21-Mar-2016, at 8:00 pm, Sunil Abraham <sunil at cis-india.org> wrote:
> The Centre for Internet and Society 
> Statement on Sexual Harassment at ICANN55
> The Centre for Internet and Society (“CIS”) strongly condemns the acts of sexual harassment that took place against one of our representatives, Ms. Padmini Baruah, during ICANN 55 in Marrakech. It is completely unacceptable that an event the scale of an ICANN meeting does not have in place a formal redressal system, a neutral point of contact or even a policy for complainants who have been put through the ordeal of sexual harassment. ICANN cannot claim to be inclusive or diverse if it does not formally recognise a specific procedure or recourse under such instances.
> Ms. Baruah is by no means the first young woman to be subject to such treatment at an ICANN event, but she is the first to raise a formal complaint. Following the incident, she was given no immediate remedy or formal recourse, and that has left her with no option but to make the incident publicly known in the interim. The ombudsman’s office has been in touch with her, but this administrative process is simply inadequate for rights-violations.
> Ms. Baruah has received support from various community, staff, and board members. While we are thankful for their support, we believe that this situation can be better dealt with through some positive measures. We ask that ICANN carry out the following steps in order to make its meetings a truly safe and inclusive space:
> Institute a formal redressal system and policy with regard to sexual harassment within ICANN. The policy must be displayed on the ICANN website, at the venue of meetings and made available in delegate kits. 
> Institute an Anti Sexual Harassment Committee that is neutral and approachable. Merely having an ombudsman who is a white male, however well intentioned, is inadequate and completely unhelpful to the complainant. The present situation is one where the ombudsman has no effective power and only advises the board.
> Conduct periodic gender and sexual harassment training of the ICANN board to help them better understand these issues. 
> Conduct periodic gender and sexual harassment training for the ombudsman even if he/she will not be the exclusive point of contact for complainants as the ombudsman forms an important part of community and participant engagement. 
> Conduct periodic gender sensitisation for the ICANN community.
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