Gender equality in the right to privacy – an essential for all

GENEVA (5 March 2020) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, Joseph Cannataci, has called for gender equality to be embedded in privacy practices around the world.

Over the years, the work of his mandate has revealed deeply disturbing breaches of privacy relating to individuals’ gender. These infringements frequently lead to discrimination, and many are intentional acts that can and do lead to violence. 

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“Privacy offers protection against gender-based violence, discrimination and other harms that disproportionately affect women, intersex and non-binary gender individuals,” Cannataci said during the presentation of his last report (A/HRC/43/52) to the UN Human Rights Council.

“The impact of digital technologies has been profound – while the digital era has many benefits – for some, digital technologies have enabled privacy to be violated,” the expert said, noting that “the resulting embarrassment and harms have been amplified and intensified due to the reach of the online world”.

In his report, the expert explains how privacy violations have for example, ‘outed’ people – resulting in lost employment opportunities. “In other cases such as domestic violence or homophobia, the virtual sphere has endangered the safety of individuals – in addition to infringing their privacy.

“My role is to outline clear international guidelines on how to protect against gender based privacy infringements, to try and help prevent the ongoing harms experienced by many individuals and communities around the world.”

The UN human rights expert warned that these harms have extended beyond individuals to impact society as a whole, “as people have lost confidence in their ability to safely participate in their communities”.

The Special Rapporteur will hold a press conference at 15:00 on Thursday 5 March, at the Palais des Nations, Press Room I, Geneva. Access is strictly limited to accredited media.

Mr. Joseph Cannataci (Malta) was appointed as the first Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy by the Human Rights Council in July 2015. He is an academic who has had a pioneering role in the development on data protection, privacy law and technology law. A UK Chartered Information Technology Professional & Fellow of the British Computer Society, he also continues to act as Expert Consultant to a number of international organisations.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.