The World Wide Web, in other words, the internet, has given large swaths of people almost unlimited access to information and communication. That is why many viewed the web as the great enhancer of freedom and democracy when it was launched in the late 20th century. Today, we know that the promises of the web have not always materialised. Yes, it represents a space where information is freely shared (hello THIS IS GENDERED!), where civil society organises, and an area that keeps essential infrastructures running. It is also a place of hate – mostly targeting women, LGBTQIA+Lesbian (L), Gay (G), Bisexual (B), Trans (T), Queer (Q), Intersex (I), Asexual (A), + denotes an umbrella term used by 'marginalised sexual and gender diverse people whose gender, gender expression, or sexual identity do not conform to cis-gender or hetero-dominant gender identity'. This acronym is intersectional by virtue of its nature as well as non-exhaustive and inclusive (as denoted by the +). Over the years, the + has been understood as encompassing Questioning (Q), Two-spirit (TS), or Pansexual (P). In other words, this term represents fluid (non-conforming) notions of gender identity and sexual orientation supposedly transgressing the binary constructs of our society (male v. female and heterosexual v. homosexual).× close people, people of colour, minorities and other oppressed groups – disinformation, data abuse, and commercial exploitation. Not even talking about the Deep Web here. Platforms such as the LGBTQ+ Guide to Online Safety and LGBTQ Youth Resources highlight the risks for individuals surfing the web as well as ways to mitigate them.

Unfortunately, gender stereotypes existing in the offline environment are just as pervasive online. Women and other minorities can be exposed to risks such as identity theft or manipulation, surveillance, harassment, and stalking – especially with tracking mobile phone devices. But that’s not all, currently, almost half the world is still offline with men being 21% more likely to be online than women. A number rising up to 52% in certain countries. Yes, the gender access gap is real, oftentimes restricting access to learning and earning opportunities, education, and valuable services for girls and women. 

Talking about providing essential services, Women on Web is an organisation that does live up to the great promises of the internet. The non-profit provides safe abortion care to pregnant people who wish to terminate their pregnancy but cannot access abortion services through other channels. Women on Web also deliver contraception to those who need it. The organisation offers online consultations and a medical review by a doctor to those needing medical help. If the medical doctor approves their request, medical abortion pills or contraceptives are shipped to the client’s home.

Women on Web opens up access to safe abortions and contraceptive care to people living in countries where these services are banned or hard to access. Self-managed abortion, done with self-administered mifepristone and misoprostol at home before the 12th week of pregnancy, is proven to be safe. Women on Web assists pregnant people during all stages of the process and is ready to answer questions in 16 different languages.

Women on Web was founded by Dutch Doctor Rebecca Gomperts, complementing the work of her earlier non-profit Women on Waves. With Women on Waves, Dr. Gomperts took pregnant people on her ship with a mobile clinic and sailed to international waters. There, Dutch law applied and thus enabled her to perform medical abortions using abortion pills. With the founding of Women on Web, Dr. Gomperts and her team were able to expand their reach and avoid authorities blocking their activities. In the past years, Women on Web has become one of the most well-known and successful distributors of telemedicine. By enhancing the sexual and reproductive health and rights of people who are or can become pregnant across the world, this activist non-profit uses the web as it is meant to be used.

Do you want to know more about the contraceptive services and abortion care provided by Women on Web? Visit their website: www.womenonweb.org.