Are we there yet? Online freedom of association and freedom of expression for women in DRC
While gender-based violence has always been a great concern and struggle in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), there are few to no studies that focus on online gender-based violence compared to offline gender-based violence. The missing link in most studies is how gender-based violence impacts the way women exercise freedom of expression (FoE) and freedom of association and assembly (FoAA), particularly in the online space. Most often women are subjected to online gender-based violence while exercising FoE and FoAA, leading to unequal participation of women in key structures.
The research study, “The Holistic Approach: Exploring Women’s Online Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Assembly in the Democratic Republic of Congo”, supported by the Feminist Internet Research Network (FIRN), will be released in the second quarter of 2023. The research project aims to understand the existing inequalities that hinder women from fully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly on the internet as well as to close the knowledge gap on online gender-based violence (OGBV) in the DRC.
The research reveals important facts, such as how more interventions are focused on offline GBV rather than OGBV and how that affects FoE and FoA for women online. Moreover, the digital space provides a conducive environment for perpetrators to act without being held accountable, since the focus is on physical aggressions. The research brings to light that gender-based violence is often treated as a consequence of certain acts tagged “unethical or unbecoming” for women to engage in. This is also viewed from the perspective of the history of the Democratic Republic of Congo since its earlier years with the struggle for independence and civil wars raging in the country.