The 9th Internet Governance Forum on 2 -5 September 2014 was held in Istanbul, a city where many lovers from various countries spend their honey moon. People write poems about the blue sea, Sultanahmet mosque and the evil eye. Romantic dinners on the night cruise illuminated by colorful lights, reflected from the Bosphorus Bridge.
But in Turkey, when it comes to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) relationships, they are often not considered love. Same sex relationships are still overshadowed by certain norms. Grindr an application for gay men looking for dates, partners, friends or political organizing is blocked by Istanbul’s Criminal Court of Peace as a ‘protective measure’, which many see as a tightening of social freedoms by the conservative Turkish government. An LGBTIQ human rights organization in Turkey called Kaos GL, in collaboration with the founder and CEO Grinder, continue to advocate for the right to free access to information.
Likewise, in Indonesia, LGBTIQ sites have been blocked since 2011. In Istanbul, the EROTICS Indonesia delegation launched its exploratory research book Queering Internet Governance in Indonesia at IGF 2014. The research explores the relation between internet governance and LGBTIQ rights in Indonesia. This includes the important role of the internet for the advancement of LGBTIQ rights, documenting the discrimination and violence which happens online towards LGBTIQ, advocacy process on the LGBTIQ sites blockage, and recommendations for multi-stakeholder internet governance in Indonesia.
Outside the conference, I enjoyed girl talk about love and sex in a restaurant near the Blue Mosque with other conference participants. We talked about the type of women we love, and a friend told me she likes boyish girls. Soon another friend showed a photo of her cute tomboy girl friend. Matchmaking was sparked, so I introduced to them to an application named Brenda. If Grinder is an application for gay men, then Brenda is for lesbians.
Suprisingly most of them did not know about Brenda. When I downloaded and tried to use this application in Istanbul, it was accessible and not blocked. This put a big smile on my face. Internet governance is always dominated by men (heterosexual majority and conservative). They might think that women have no independent sexuality, and that two women could not have sex. The reality it can be humongous orgasm. Hot, sweating and beautiful, like summer in Istanbul.
I am not saying all of this to get Brenda blocked in Turkey, but the reality faced by women is that their sexual rights are often absent. Patriarchal culture shaping the discourse on male sexuality is more visible on the internet if it is related to pleasure, fantasy and recreation on sexuality. This isn’t the case for a space for discussing women, gender, sexuality and the internet.
Let’s talk about the relationship between internet dating and activism. The five eyes alliance USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Britain are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation destruction. One of the tactics called “honey trap”. The version of a “honey trap” described by British cyber spies in a 2012 presentation sounds like a version of internet dating, but includes physical encounters. The target is lured “to go somewhere on the internet, or a physical location” to be met by “a friendly face.” The goal, according to the presentation, is to discredit the target. The tactic can be used to collect confidential information too.
Honey trap reminds me how important the digital security for LGBTIQ rights defenders is. We never know if the hot boys and girls that we know from online dating are a honey trap too. I understand we don’t need to be too paranoid, but I think prevention is important. Can Grinder or Brenda be love or “honey traps”? I don’t know. What I know as LGBTIQ rights defenders, we need to secure our community and ourselves too in order to sustain our activism. Safe sex and don’t forget digital condom.
Image by gaelx used under Creative Commons license