Unfolding the gender gap in digital spaces
In this increasingly digitalized world, the internet has become an integral part of our ecosystem. However, access to digital rights and spaces is not equal for everyone. Individuals from marginalized communities face significant barriers that limit access and utilize digital spaces completely.
Access to the internet and technology is not equal globally. People from lower-income backgrounds or living in rural areas often do not have access to the necessary resources to access digital spaces. They also face societal and cultural barriers that prevent them from accessing digital spaces. Governments and corporations may restrict access to certain websites or social media platforms, limiting their ability to share their voices and opinions online.
In essence, intersectionality means that access to digital spaces is not solely dependent on gender but on other aspects of identity. Marginalized communities that experience intersectional oppression may face additional barriers to accessing digital spaces, as well as unique forms of discrimination and harassment within those spaces.
For example, women may experience online harassment that is both sexist and racist, while trans women may face discrimination and exclusion within certain online communities.
The digital gender gap in India is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted approach to address. Initiatives that address the root causes of the gap, such as promoting digital literacy and infrastructure development, addressing safety concerns, and promoting gender diversity in the tech industry, are essential. According to a report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), as of 2021, only 42% of Indian women have access to the internet, compared to 59% of men. Additionally, only 25% of rural women have access to the internet, compared to 60% of urban men. Furthermore, women in India are significantly underrepresented in the tech industry, making up only 34% of the total workforce. However, this statistic does not include non-binary, trans folks which reflect the underrepresentation of the marginalized thus affecting marginality and their access to digital safety. Through the reinforcement of gender stereotypes and norms in online spaces, certain activities or behaviors are "male" or "female," which can limit opportunities and perpetuate harmful gender norms, and contributes to gender-based violence offline. Since the online gate is not just limited to the online space, it perpetuates into the offline realm as well. Gender underrepresentation online can limit access to resources and support networks, which can leave the marginalized more vulnerable to violence offline.
Online spaces can be self-reinforcing, where people are exposed only to information and opinions that align with their pre-existing beliefs. This can lead to the creation of online echo chambers that perpetuate harmful gender biases, which can then spill over into offline interactions.
By- Manisha Bhaduri