Call for Abstracts: Mobile Phones, Gender & Society: Emerging Empirical Realities & Feminist Perspectives

Call For Papers for an International Conference

Mobile Phones, Gender & Society: Emerging Empirical Realities & Feminist

4th and 5th June 2019

Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

Background Note
Mobile media and mobile technology have become the pre-eminent form and method of
communication and socializing among young people globally. Young people use mobile phones
as an effective means for communicating economic, social and political identities. They also use
mobile phones to create, maintain and manage interpersonal, intimate and sexual relationships.
The mobile revolution has created a new set of moral panics in society. While the mobile
revolution is heralded by the markets and projected as hip, happening and sexy, the response
from a variety of social institutions, family, schools, colleges, religious groups, traditional
community leaders (khap panchayats in India), media, police, law and governments tell us a
different story. In sexually conservative societies where pre-marital sexual relationships are
either frowned upon or socially not acceptable, the opportunity to strike a romantic relationship
or to access online porn is creating new moral anxieties. For women and girls, the access to the
online resources through smartphones is creating new opportunities on the one hand, but
extending the off-line violations and online violence through the recording of private/personal
messages, forwarding sexually explicit images, cyber bullying, cyber stalking, trolling, doxing
and so on. The tech-mediated online gender-based violence is equally material and corporeal for
women and girls. New forms of ‘victim-blaming’ control the access and use of technologies and
initiate surveillance on women and girls.

Due to their characteristics like accessibility, low-cost, privacy and relative anonymity, mobile
media and technology have created new opportunities for romantic and sexual relations to
circumvent and negotiate structural barriers created by the class, caste, ethnicity and religious
gatekeeping. However, this newfound freedom is mediated through the social and legal fault
lines. The recent introduction of laws such as the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences
(POCSO, 2013) in India has shifted the legal age at consent for girls to 18 years. While this has
legally criminalized early age at marriage it has also criminalized consensus sexual relations
among adolescents and teens. An area that is socially and legally now not tenable. Several cases
are being filed all over the country under POCSO making several young men and women
vulnerable to being tried under the law for getting sexually involved or eloping to marry. The
mobile phone often is the villain of the story.

In South Africa, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act
(no.32 of 2007) enabled the state to prosecute consensual sex between teenagers who are under
the age of 16 and have more than a two-year difference between them. The act compelled adults,
including doctors, to report such cases. The Act was heavily criticised for the negative impact it
would have on the sexual and reproductive health behaviour of young girls including
undermining the Choice of Termination Act which allowed young women to access termination
of their pregnancy at any age or the Child Care Act which gave 12-year-olds the right to access
contraception. In June 2015, The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters)
Amendment Act (no.5 of 2015) came into being. Consensual sexual activity between 12 to 16-
year-olds was decriminalised while the age of consent remained at 16 years old.
The context of India and South Africa with the conflicting realities of growing sexual freedoms
of young people on the one hand and the legalistic conundrum of age at consent is throwing fresh
challenges to society and gender relations.

Broadly the following questions with reference to India and South Africa will be addressed:
1. What are the varying experiences of youth with regard to the use of mobile technologies?
2. What is the process of meaning making (identity construction) garnered through mobile
phone technology– specifically relating to notions of love, sex and sexuality?
3. What are the new forms of digital based surveillance on girls, women and gender
4. What are the state, civil society and women’s movements responses to tackling the
divergent narratives of freedom vs control; empowerment vs violence?
5. How are concepts of ‘privacy’, ‘agency’, ‘autonomy’ and ‘consent’ being framed in the
legal arena with reference to young women, which may or may not be empowering of
their agency and choices?
6. Are there attempts to build progressive, empowering and gender-sensitive strategies to
strengthen access to technologies on the one hand and mitigate technology-mediated
violence against girls, women and gender minorities?

We welcome submissions that explore the questions in greater depth. We welcome abstracts of
500 words based on primary research by individual researchers or organisations; elaborate on interventions or initiatives to address the concerns mentioned above. The abstract has to provide
the details on the source of information and or the site of study.

Both young and established scholars and practitioners are welcome to apply.

Individuals whose abstracts are selected will be requested to prepare and submit complete draft
papers. Their travel and hospitality will be covered to attend an international conference to be
held at TISS Mumbai on 4 & 5 June 2019. Papers should be between 6000 to 8000 words. The
organisers of the conference plan to work towards a book publication, hence further working on
the paper is expected and authors have to be willing to work on their papers after the conference.

Important deadlines:
1. Individuals interested in submitting abstracts are encouraged to email a 500 word abstract
with a title, name of the author (s), organisational affiliation and email id for
2. Link for personal details https://forms.gle/ebWCc4WtwzgEk1xK6
3. Abstract to be emailed to tissllworkshop@gmail.com by 10th April 2019.
4. Authors of selected submissions will be informed by the 14th April 2019.
5. Draft papers to be submitted by 15th May 2019.

For any queries, write to tissllworkshop@gmail.com

Conference Organizers:
Prof Lakshmi Lingam, School of Media and Cultural Studies, TISS, Mumbai, INDIA & Dr.
Nolwazi Mkhwanazi, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, SOUTH AFRICA
Conference Funder:
National Institute for the Humanities & Social Sciences, South Africa