Association for Progressive Communications Publishes Framework for Developing Gender-Responsive Cybersecurity Policy

Garcia Ramilo
Executive Director of APC

The Association for Progressive Communications (APC), a membership-based international network of organizations and activists based in Johannesburg, South Africa, has published a new framework to support policymakers and civil society organisations by providing practical guidance for developing gender-responsive cybersecurity policies, laws and strategies.

Titled “A framework for Developing gender-responsive cybersecurity policy, the three-part framework was developed by APC in consultation with cybersecurity and gender specialists and activists. It was developed with funding support from the Government of the United Kingdom and published in June 2023.

The framework is made up of:

·         A literature review that explores how cybersecurity as a gendered space has been addressed in research;

·         A compendium of relevant norms, standards and guidelines connected with gender and cybersecurity that advocates can draw upon to promote a gender perspective within cybersecurity; and

·         An assessment tool that provides practical recommendations to develop a gender approach to cybersecurity policy.

According to the APC, “Beyond the fact that cybersecurity problems are formulated in techno-functional terms, which gives it an objective halo, cybersecurity is a contested field and an inherently political one: it is a contest between different worldviews, ideologies and strategic interests, even if all these are concealed as unquestioned assumptions.”

It argued that security, as a value, is not universal and immutable; but that security is constantly sustained and elaborated by local socio-cultural practices that characterise who and what is considered “safe” or “unsafe”, conceptualising the objects that are protected by security and articulating the moral justification for security.

APC said the gender approach has also entered the dispute about what and how cybersecurity is considered.

It noted that while great strides have been made in recognising the applicability of human rights frameworks to gender-based threats and abuses in digital contexts, “the gendered impact of international cyber operations and incidents, as well as gender inequality, has been a largely unexplored part of the discourse in more securitised cyber processes and forums.”

The three-part framework is thus expected to contribute to the work of the various stakeholders interested in the contributions of a gender approach to cybersecurity to find a theoretical background that can support their policies and actions.