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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 13 February 2024

  1. Women’s Participation in Peace Building
  2. Child Safety in the Online World


Context:

A UN Peacekeeping Commander once noted that being a woman in an armed conflict may be more perilous than being a soldier. The current situation in Gaza serves as a stark illustration, with the death toll exceeding 25,000, and over 17,000 women and children having lost their lives by January 24. UNICEF has labelled Gaza as the ‘most dangerous place to be a child,’ with 1.1 million children facing threats from conflict, malnutrition, and diseases.

Relevance:

GS1- Role of Women and Women’s Organization

GS2-

  • Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests
  • Important International Institutions, agencies and fora – their Structure, Mandate

Mains Question:

The perilous circumstances faced by women in conflict zones cannot be overstated. Analyse. (15 Marks, 250 Words).

The Conflict in Ukraine:

  • In parallel, the prolonged conflict in Ukraine since 2022 has resulted in a surge of refugees to 5.6 million and internal displacement (IDP) reaching about 7.7 million, of which 60% are women (according to the UN).
  • Various studies on peace and warfare argue that any conflict, whether civil or armed, is inherently ‘gendered,’ impacting women and men disparately.
  • Researchers contend that during unrest, when political structures and economic systems break down, it exacerbates women’s vulnerability, reinforces existing inequalities, and exposes women and girls to a high risk of gender-based violence (GBV).

Violence Against Women in Conflict Zones:

Sexual Violence:

  • Social scientists express concern that in conflict zones, sexual offenses against women are often downplayed, and heinous crimes like rape are normalized as an ‘inevitable outcome of war.’
  • The UN’s 2022 report on sexual violence in conflict zones emphasizes that sexual violence is deployed as a tactic to dehumanize and displace populations.
  • Even in post-war situations, when apparent peace is declared, the culture of violence against women persists or intensifies, continuing even after men return from the battlefield.
  • A three-country study in post-conflict Iraq, conflict-ridden Occupied Palestinian Territory, and the openly conflicted Yemen revealed that women and girls face deep gender inequalities and enduring adverse impacts in such calamitous situations.
  • Women also bear the brunt of substantial internal displacement (IDP) in the aftermath of conflict and violence. In 2020, at least 21 million women and girls were uprooted within their countries, with two-thirds of them hailing from Africa and the Middle East.

Job Insecurity of Women in Conflict Ridden Zones:

  • In South Asia, women constitute 42 to 52 percent of refugees. Since the commencement of the war in Gaza in October, nearly one million women have been displaced.
  • In the aftermath of conflicts, a study revealed that women undergo increased impoverishment, often being the first to face job layoffs in the public sector, leading to the feminization of the informal sector.
  • Additionally, the absence of essential services like healthcare, including sexual and reproductive health services, exposes them to higher risks of unplanned pregnancies, maternal mortality, reproductive injuries, and sexually transmitted infections. Girls also encounter obstacles in accessing education.

Participation in Peace Agreements:

  • From 1992 to 2019, women’s involvement in formal peace processes was limited, averaging 13% as negotiators, 6% as mediators, and 6% as signatories in major peace processes.
  • In UN-led or co-led peace processes in 2022, women’s participation was 16%, down from 19% in 2021 and 23% in 2020.
  • In the same year, only 33% of peace agreements referenced women, girls, and gender, with these figures stagnating between 20% and 35% annually.

Other Relevant Areas:

  • According to the UN’s 2023 ‘Women, Peace, and Security’ report, over 600 million women and girls resided in conflict-affected countries in 2022, marking a 50% rise since 2017.
  • Political violence against women in conflict-affected nations increased by 50% between 2020 and 2022.
  • Civil conflicts have more than doubled from 30 in 2001 to 70 in 2016, primarily in the least developed countries.
  • Despite the escalating need for humanitarian aid, global military spending reached USD 2.2 trillion in 2022, negatively impacting both gender equality and global peace, according to UN Women.

Way Forward:

  • Many feminists argue that gender perspectives should be integrated into reconstruction and redevelopment plans in conflict and post-conflict scenarios. Currently, male norms and behaviors are considered the human norm.
  • The application of international humanitarian law necessitates an understanding of the gendered harms resulting from armed conflict.
  • Women’s participation in peace agreements significantly prolongs their duration, with a 20% increase for at least two years, 35% for 15 years, and a 64% reduced likelihood of failure.

Conclusion:

As the world teeters on the brink of more turmoil, meaningful participation of women is crucial for a broader perspective on conflict management, inclusive political resolutions, and effective peace-building strategies.



Context:

In the initial days of February, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, publicly apologized to parents whose children fell victim to online predators during a Congressional hearing. This hearing was convened to scrutinize and investigate the widespread problem of online child sexual exploitation, with executives from these companies being criticized for neglecting their responsibility to safeguard children on social media platforms.

Relevance:

GS2- Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States and the Performance of these Schemes

GS3-

  • Role of Media and Social Networking Sites in Internal Security Challenges
  • Basics of Cyber Security

Mains Question:

What are the dangers and risks for children in the virtual space. Also discuss the responsibility of tech companies and government’s regulatory frameworks in this regard. (15 Marks, 250 Words).

Issues with Online Child Safety:

  • Tech giants are increasingly finding themselves amidst a storm of global protests, not only related to privacy concerns but also regarding the online security of users.
  • Worldwide, parents and activists are fervently advocating for tech companies to take responsibility and ensure that their platforms are ‘safe by design’ for children and young users.
  • In the past year, a UNICEF report titled ‘The Metaverse, Extended Reality and Children’ attempted to analyze the potential evolution of virtual environments and their likely impact on children and young adults.
  • These technologies do present various potential benefits for children, particularly in the realms of education and health.

How Significant are the Risks?

  • The report by UNICEF emphasizes that potential risks to children are considerable. These risks encompass safety issues like exposure to explicit sexual content, bullying, sexual harassment, and abuse, which can feel more lifelike in immersive virtual environments compared to current platforms.
  • Additionally, vast amounts of data, including non-verbal behavior, are collected, potentially enabling a few major tech companies to facilitate highly personalized profiling, advertising, and increased surveillance. This, in turn, affects children’s privacy, security, and other rights and freedoms.
  • While the complete immersion promised by the Metaverse is not yet a reality, there are already multiple virtual environments and games that, although not entirely immersive, indicate potential dangers within that realm.
  • For example, in the widely popular Grand Theft Auto, which has both adult and child versions, there are certain inappropriate instructions in the adult version and adolescents are likely to choose the adult version, raising concerns about the messages conveyed to children.
  • Recent media reports also highlight instances where children are using Artificial Intelligence to generate inappropriate child abuse images.
  • Furthermore, the mental health aspect is a concern, with children potentially experiencing trauma, solicitation, and abuse online, leading to deep psychological scars that can impact their real-world lives.
  • Even seemingly innocuous sharing of images online can be manipulated by malicious predators. To protect the information that children share online, the importance of end-to-end encryption is often emphasized.

Extent of Generative AI’s Influence:

  • According to a paper from the Davos World Economic Forum last year, generative AI presents potential opportunities, including aiding with homework, providing understandable explanations of complex concepts, and offering personalized learning experiences that adapt to a child’s individual learning style and pace.
  • The paper highlights that children can utilize AI to engage in activities such as creating art, composing music, writing stories, and developing software with minimal or no coding skills, thus fostering creativity.
  • Additionally, for children with disabilities, generative AI opens up new possibilities by enabling them to interface and co-create with digital systems through text, speech, or images.
  • However, the report also acknowledges the potential risks associated with generative AI, emphasizing that it could be exploited by malicious actors or unintentionally lead to harm or widespread disruptions that may adversely affect children’s prospects and well-being.
  • Generative AI has demonstrated the ability to instantly generate text-based disinformation that is indistinguishable from, and even more persuasive than, content created by humans.
  • Moreover, AI-generated images can sometimes be indistinguishable from reality. As children’s cognitive capacities are still developing, they are particularly vulnerable to the risks of misinformation and disinformation.
  • There is an ongoing debate about the potential impact on young minds of interacting with chatbots that exhibit a human-like tone.

Way Forward:

  • The primary responsibility lies with tech companies, who need to implement ‘safety by design.’ The recent Congressional hearings have underscored the awareness of these companies regarding the negative impact their apps and systems can have on children.
  • Referring to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF provides guidance outlining nine requirements for child-centered AI.
  • This includes supporting children’s development and well-being and safeguarding their data and privacy. UNICEF suggests that tech companies adhere to the highest existing data protection standards for children’s data in virtual environments and the metaverse.
  • Furthermore, governments are urged to regularly assess and adjust regulatory frameworks to prevent the violation of children’s rights by such technologies.
  • They should also leverage their authority to address harmful content and behavior that poses a threat to children online.

Conclusion:

Ultimately, everyone should begin with the assumption that the rules established in the real world to protect children should equally apply and prevail in the online realm.


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