"Let's Face It: South Asian perspectives on gendered surveillance and digital tech.'

Part 1 - Lead Organizer


Contact Person

Koninika Roy

Organization / Affiliation (Please state "Individual" if appropriate)

Point of View


Second Lead, Sexuality, Gender and Technology



Economy of Residence


Primary Stakeholder Group

Civil Society


Part 2 - Session Proposal

Your proposal is for

Main Conference (Day 1-3)

Session Title

"Let's Face It: South Asian perspectives on gendered surveillance and digital tech.'



Session Format

Panel Discussion

Where do you plan to organize your session?

Virtual / online

Specific Issues for Discussion

Surveillance has historically been used as a tool to control people of marginalized identities across digital and physical spaces. Over the past few years, there has been a significant rise in the use of mass surveillance in South Asia in the form of smart city projects, heightened social media surveillance, CCTV cameras etc. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in intrusive data collection and surveillance through tracking apps, identification requirements at ration centers, etc. which has disproportionately affected marginalized communities.

Describe the Relevance of Your Session to APrIGF

India is the third biggest surveillance state in the world. In recent times, facial recognition was widely used to identify protestors demonstrating against the arbitrary citizenship law. In the COVID context, Aadhaar was mandated for accessing relief for marginalized groups and prevented access to lifesaving relief efforts. Pakistan is seeing a rise in state, political and social surveillance, often in an unconstitutional manner. With increasing conversations around ‘safer cities’ for women, gender justice activists are questioning whether increasing surveillance at all leads to an increased feeling of safety for women and persons of other marginalized genders, or whether it acts as just another tool for patriarchal dominance and control. In Nepal, vague terms like ‘modern infrastructure’ and ‘high class experience’ are used to describe surveillance projects. Moreover, civil society and gender rights activists have been questioning the installation of CCTV cameras as a means to curtail civil liberties. In Sri Lanka, the government has embarked on a ‘world class city’ project - the civil society and the public have not been adequately consulted on the project, which was designed by ‘experts’. The project led to serious human rights violations like relocation and eviction of working class communities from urban Colombo.

Methodology / Agenda

In the session, four speakers from India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka, who have notable experience working on these issues and at the intersections of gender and digital rights, will talk about what surveillance looks like in the South Asian context. Through a panel discussion, the session will explore the multi-faceted implications of surveillance on people of marginalised and intersectional identities, including women, queer persons, and people with disabilities. It will spark rights-centric conversations on the range of ways surveillance affects marginalised identities, lives and bodies; the emerging resistance(s) around this issue; challenges encountered; remedies and responses; and the way forward. There will be four speakers and one moderator. The moderator will keep time and ensure that everyone gets a chance to speak. 10 minutes will be allotted to introductions and tone setting. This will be followed by 6 minute presentations by the speakers on a question that the moderator will ask. 10 minutes will be reserved for question and answer sessions with the audience and the final few minutes will be reserved for closing remarks from the speakers. We will also use a shared document that participants can use to contribute their resources, questions and notes to.

Please provide 3 subject matter tags that best describe your session.

Surveillance Marginalised Communities Digital Rights in South Asia


Moderators & Speakers Info (Please complete where possible)

Name Designation Organization Economy of Residence Stakeholder Group Gender Status of Confirmation
Moderator (Primary) Debarati Das Project Anchor Point of View India Civil Society Non-binary Confirmed
Moderator (Back-up) Koniika Roy Second lead Point of View India Civil Society Woman Confirmed
Speaker 1 Radhika Radhakrishnan Researcher Internet Democracy Project India Civil Society Proposed
Speaker 2 Shubha Kayastha Co-founder and Executive Director Body and Data Nepal Civil Society Proposed
Speaker 3 Shmyla Khan Research and Policy Director Digital Rights Foundation Pakistan Civil Society Proposed


Please explain the rationale for choosing each of the above contributors to the session.

Shmyla Khan is the Research and Policy Director at the Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan that works on issues of gender, privacy and online freedom of expression. Shmyla Khan has significant experience working on feminist issues around surveillance in digital spaces and has been a researcher for the notable research study titled ‘Surveillance of Female Journalists in Pakistan’, among other research and literary works. Subha Wijesiriwardena is a Program Manager at CREA, a global feminist human rights organisation led by feminists in the global South. Subha has notable experience working in the intersections of queer rights, digital safety and security, and gendering surveillance in the digital age. Subha Wijesiriwardena also writes about gender, sexuality, tech, media and politics. Radhika Radhakrishnan is a feminist activist, working as a researcher at the Internet Democracy Project on the Bodies and Data Governance Project. She previously worked with the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) as a Programme Officer researching feminist approaches to Artificial Intelligence, with the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) of United Nations-DESA as a Consultant on Gender and Access, and with the Women’s Rights Programme of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC). In 2020, Radhika wrote a policy brief for Data Governance Network on the disease surveillance during COVID-19 in India. Shubha Kayastha is the co-founder and executive director at Body & Data, a digital rights organisation based in Nepal. She identifies as a queer feminist and works in the intersection of gender, sexuality and technology.