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S3 E7: #Tech4Rights: Confronting online violence against sexual minorities

In conversation with Laurah Arudi Maina, Kofi Yeboah and Emsie Erastus

The Centre for Human Rights partnered with Paradigm Initiative in advancing digital rights in Africa through the Digital Rights and Inclusion Media Fellowship (DRIMF) that is offered by Paradigm Initiative. DRIMF is offered twice every year and is aimed at exposing the participants to the digital rights landscape and enhancing their knowledge and skills in digital rights in Africa. As part of the fellowship, the Centre for Human Rights’  Expression, Information and Digital Rights Unit offered an academic course on digital rights in Africa between March and June 2021. The Digital Rights in Africa course targeted participants from various countries in Africa and was delivered by renowned digital rights experts on the continent. It covered themes such as elections in the digital age, artificial intelligence, privacy and data protection, rights of vulnerable and marginalised groups as well as freedom of expression, access to information in the digital age.

As part of the course and a contribution to the Centre for Human Rights’ #Tech4Rights campaign, this episode discusses online violence sexual minorities. The Centre for Human Rights’ 2021 theme, #Tech4Rights: Rethinking a human rights-based approach to new technologies in Africa, focuses on the intersection between technology and human rights. As part of the campaign, the Centre for Human Rights is running a series of activities that look into technology from the perspective of various thematic areas of human rights. The Digital Rights in Africa course is one of the activities that are aimed at advancing the #Tech4Rights campaign.

This podcast episode is a conversation on confronting online violence sexual minorities.  In Africa, several governments have developed laws that criminalise LGBTIQ+ persons and infringe on their human rights. Laurah Arudi, an expert on SOGIE (sexual orientation, gender identity and expression rights) and participants of the Digital Rights in Africa course who are also Paradigm Initiative Fellows, Kofi Yeboah and Emsie Erastus explore the rights of sexual minorities online. They discuss the concept of digital rights and how the existing regional and international human rights frameworks either protect or infringe on the digital rights of LGBTIQ+ persons, the opportunities presented to sexual minorities in this digital era and possible avenues that LGBTIQ+ persons should take when advocating for their digital rights. The discussion also elaborates on insights on how digital platforms have increased awareness of the plights of sexual minorities and also contributed to a subtle change in behaviour. The discussants argue that, while the digital era has created an unconventional, yet effective conduit for LGBTIQ+ persons to mobilise local and international support, these platforms have also exacerbated tailored online abuse and attacks against sexual minorities. In other words, digital platforms have become a double-edged sword in tackling the digital rights violations of LGBTIQ+ persons in Africa. In light of these challenges, Kofi and Emsie proposed recommendations for advocacy approaches and underscored the persuasion of policymakers and governments instead of focusing on sensitising individuals. They also underscored the need for aligning digital rights laws with international human rights laws.

Emsie Erastus is an ICT researcher who is curious about the interaction between technologies and humanity and the autonomy, culture and how they intersect with digital technologies. Emsie holds an MSc in Media and Communications (with Distinction) from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). In 2019, Emsie received the prestigious Chevening Scholarship. She has worked as a newspaper journalist (nominated and won several awards), researcher, and gender analyst.

Kofi Yeboah holds a is a technology inclusion advocate and his research interests include intersections of the internet, artificial intelligence and inclusion, and the digital divide in sub-Saharan Africa. Kofi participated in the Global Voices research team as a co-lead in a study conducted at a regional of Facebook’s Free Basics app.  The study measured the app against collectively-developed benchmarks of usability, quality of connection, language and accessibility, content, and privacy/data policies. Kofi‘s contributions on internet freedom and authoritarian technology have appeared in major international and local media outlets including Aljazeera, Democracy in Africa, Coda Story, Fast Company, and Global Voices Online.  His current research focuses on artificial intelligence and inclusion gaps. Kofi holds a Master’s degree in Communications and Technology; a Certificate in Community-based Research and Engagement; and a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Sociology.

Laurah Arudi Maina is a passionate human rights advocate for social justice. She focuses on awareness-raising through researching, organising, advocating and implementing projects that seek policy reforms, equity, and the explicit inclusion and protection of all persons, specifically sexual minorities. Arudi holds a Bachelor's degree in Sociology and Psychology from Kenyatta University. She also holds a Masters in Philosophy degree from the Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa program by the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. Currently, she works with the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions. Her work entails increasing the capacity of African National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) in realising Resolution 275 that speaks against violence and discrimination of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, Asexual and Gender-non-conforming (LGBTIAGNC) persons.

This conversation was recorded on 8 June 2021.
Edited by Tatenda Musinahama

Music: Inner Peace by Mike Chino https://soundcloud.com/mike-chinoCreative Commons — Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported — CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/b...Music promoted by Audio Library https://youtu.be/0nI6qJeqFcc