The Internet has become a key means by which individuals can exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression, as guaranteed by article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights. (para. 20) The right to freedom of opinion and expression is as much a fundamental right on its own accord as it is an “enabler” of other rights, including economic, social and cultural rights. By acting as a catalyst for individuals to exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Internet also facilitates the realization of a range of other human rights. (para. 22)
The EROTICS (Exploratory Research on Sexuality and the Internet) research project was initiated in 2008 as an exploratory step to meet bridge the gap between policy and legislative measures that regulate content and practice on the internet, and the actual lived practices, experiences and concerns of internet users in the exercise of their sexual rights. It aims to promote evidence-based policy making by engaging in on-the-ground research with a range of internet users – especially those most affected by internet regulation measures, including young women and people of diverse sexualities – to inform and guide policy making for a more accountable process of decision making. The project was coordinated by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and conducted with local partners comprising feminist academics and activists in five countries, namely Brazil, India, Lebanon, South Africa and the United States.
This paper, published in 2012, presents an overview of the project and draws out some of the emerging issues that are threaded between the five country papers, with an aim to stimulate further research and discussion. The first section summarises the overall goal, approachand methodological issues of the research. The second and third sections look at the current landscape of sexual and internet rights, and the value of the internet in the exercise of rights by people of diverse sexualities that were surfaced in the country research. The fourth section outlines the different forms of challenges, threats and restrictions to the free flow of information and engagement online that emerged, and the key actors involved. The final section raises aspects that are missing from the debates, with recommendations for further research and ways forward. Read the Report here.