Common issues code of conduct teams should know about

Romantic or sexual advances/ overtures

Events are often fertile spaces for love and intimacy to happen. If the recipient of a romantic or sexual overture appreciates it, the individuals involved may proceed to paint the town red. In the event that the recipient turns down the gesture, the Trust and Safety team may find itself responding to a complaint about inappropriate physical contact, sexual harassment or similar transgressions. The handling and resolution of such complaints is a topic vast enough to merit a learning module of its own. Nevertheless, it may be useful for the Trust and Safety team to sensitise the event organisers and other people within the fold about the issue of sexual consent. Some useful resources to do so:

Minors

Some Wikimedians are in the position to attend events only if they can bring their minor children along. Minors who accompany an adult participant should never be left unsupervised at an event in the interest of their safety. It is best to have a designated childcare care room and playroom with a nanny where children can stay while their parent or guardian is at the event.

In the case of participants who are minors themselves, it is advisable to ask them to bring along a guardian or to request a written undertaking from their parents or guardians stating that they are aware their child/ ward is attending the event. Organisers should discourage any sexual activity with underage participants, even if it is consensual. The age of consent in India is 18 years. According to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act, 2012, a sexual act with anyone under 18 years of age is considered child rape, even if it is consensual. The law also contains provisions against abetting an offense. Anyone who has knowledge of such a sexual offense but does not report it to law enforcement authorities could potentially be charged and face punishment.

Contractors and support staff Photographers, videographers, venue managers, security personnel, and persons who provide technical, logistic and administrative support may be hired as contractors or support staff for an event. If the event organisers and the Trust and Safety team choose not to bring them under the purview of the CoC, they should be briefed clearly and in advance about the rules of interaction with the participants of the event.

Resistance to the enforcement of a CoC

The Ada Initiative website states, "...a code of conduct that isn't (or can't be) enforced is worse than no code of conduct at all: it sends the message that the values in the code of conduct aren't actually important or respected in your community". It may be relatively hard to find acceptance for the CoC or FSP in communities of a certain disposition. Here are some the most common arguments against the enforcement and implementation of a CoC. Members of teams responsible for Trust and Safety may prepare to respond to these arguments as appropriate, depending on the composition, dynamics and nature of the community/ participant group:

  • It has a chilling effect on the speech and actions of participants.
  • It impinges on the freedom of expression of the people who are governed by the CoC while privileging people of certain political and social bent who have been involved with the drafting and enforcement of the CoC.
  • It allows the Incident Response team/ Trust and Safety team to abuse their power.
  • "I am someone who speaks truth to power and the CoC/ FSP is being (mis)used to silence me."
  • "I belong to a (real or perceived) oppressed community/ demographic and provisions of the CoC are being unfairly used against me."
  • The provisions of the CoC are discriminatory as they lend themselves to reverse racism, reverse sexism, reverse cis-sexism, reverse casteism, et cetera.
  • "Harassment does not happen in our community. Accepting such a set of rules implies otherwise. It implies that the community is not safe, friendly or welcoming."

Some steps that could help prevent resistance to the CoC and its allied frameworks:

  • The CoC should be circulated well in advance so that participants do not feel it was thrust on them at short notice. This is especially important for events where the sign-up process makes the CoC binding on everyone.
  • Potential participants should be encouraged to voice their apprehensions during the process for community review of the CoC.
  • Provide translations of the CoC in the language(s) the participants are most comfortable with, so that they are able to understand the CoC in letter and spirit.
  • For events spanning short durations (say, a few hours or a day) and with a small number of participants (say, 20 or less), it may be useful to not institute a CoC in advance. Based on a skeleton CoC, the Trust and Safety team or the organisers may conduct a "value-setting" exercise at the start of the event.
    • The exercise involves reading a proposed set of rules aloud to the participants and asking if all of them agree to it. The questions could be framed as, "Do we all agree to abide by the Chatham House Rule?"; "Does anyone have any objections to being photographed or videographed?"; "Does everyone agree to switch off their mobile devices while this discussion is happening?". In case disagreements arise, the organisers help everyone reach a consensus or resolution agreeable to all. The exercise is more spontaneous than implementing a CoC drafted in advance, and gives the participants a sense of active presence and agency in the formulation of the rules they are laying down for themselves.
  • Bringing about acceptance for anti-abuse, anti-harassment and friendly space policies also requires long-term interventions that would come to define the culture and character of the community. A discussion of such interventions is outside the scope of this learning module.
next: Inadmissible complaints