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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

CIS petitions board over sexual harassment @ ICANN55

Indian-based Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) has petitioned the world Internet Protocol (IP) coordinating body, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) over suspected sexual harassment of its staff at the ICANN 55 public meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, reports ITRealms.

The petition directed at ICANN board of directors by CIS Executive Director, Mr. Sunil Abraham, entitled “Statement on Sexual Harassment at ICANN55” condemned in strong terms the belittlement of ICANN public meeting.

The Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) located in Banglore, India, he said, strongly condemns the acts of sexual harassment that took place against one of CIS representatives, Ms. Padmini Baruah, during ICANN 55 in Marrakech.

“It is completely unacceptable that an event the scale of an meeting does not have in place a formal redressal system, a neutral point of contact or even a policy for complainants who have been put through the ordeal of sexual harassment,” he said.

ICANN, Abraham noted, cannot claim to be inclusive or diverse if it does not formally recognise a specific procedure or recourse under such instances, especially for sexually harassed participant.

He pointed out that Ms. Baruah, a law student, is by no means the first young woman to be subject to such treatment at an ICANN event, but she is the first to raise a formal complaint which deserves element of commendation.

CIS also lamented that following the incident, she was given no immediate remedy or formal recourse, and that has left her with no option but to make the incident publicly known in the interim.

Stressing that the ombudsman’s office has been in touch with her, but this administrative process is simply inadequate for rights-violations.

CIS further said that Ms. Baruah has received support from various community, staff, and board members.

However, CIS believes that this situation could be better dealt with through some positive measures and urged ICANN to carry out some steps in order to make its meetings a truly safe and inclusive space.

Some of these steps, CIS canvassed to include instituting a formal redressal system and policy with regard to sexual harassment within ICANN, which must be displayed on the ICANN website, at the venue of meetings and made available in delegate kits.

The Centre equally requested ICANN to institute an ‘Anti Sexual Harassment Committee’ that is neutral and approachable, insisting that mere having an ombudsman who is a white male, no matter well intentioned, is inadequate and completely unhelpful to the complainant.

“The present situation is one where the ombudsman has no effective power and only advises the board,” Abraham said.

In addition, ICANN the Centre urged to conduct periodic gender and sexual harassment training of the ICANN board to help them better understand these issues, as well as conduct periodic gender and sexual harassment training for the ombudsman even if he or she will not be the exclusive point of contact for complainants as the ombudsman forms an important part of community and participant engagement.

Lastly, CIS advised ICANN to conduct periodic gender sensitisation for the ICANN community.


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