Centre for Internet & Society

The Centre for Internet and Society

Statement on Sexual Harassment at ICANN55

The Centre for Internet and Society (“CIS”) strongly condemns the acts of sexual harassment that took place against one of our representatives, Ms. Padmini Baruah, during ICANN 55 in Marrakech. It is completely unacceptable that an event the scale of an ICANN 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. ICANN cannot claim to be inclusive or diverse if it does not formally recognise a specific procedure or recourse under such instances.

Ms. Baruah 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. 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. The ombudsman’s office has been in touch with her, but this administrative process is simply inadequate for rights-violations.

Ms. Baruah has received support from various community, staff, and board members. While we are thankful for their support, we believe that this situation can be better dealt with through some positive measures. We ask that ICANN carry out the following steps in order to make its meetings a truly safe and inclusive space:

  1. Institute a formal redressal system and policy with regard to sexual harassment within ICANN. The policy must be displayed on the ICANN website, at the venue of meetings and made available in delegate kits.

  2. Institute an Anti Sexual Harassment Committee that is neutral and approachable. Merely having an ombudsman who is a white male, however 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.

  3. Conduct periodic gender and anti sexual harassment training of the ICANN board to help them better understand, recognise and address instances of sexual harassment.

  4. Conduct periodic gender and anti sexual harassment training for the ombudsman even if he/she will not be the exclusive point of contact for complainants as the ombudsman forms an important part of community and participant engagement

  5. Conduct periodic gender sensitisation for the ICANN community.


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