Feminist reflection on internet policies

Changing the way you see ICT

Philippines: Violence against women and ICT

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The
Philippine government has practically
ratified all international instruments that are relevant in promoting
and protecting women and girls rights and has enacted laws that aim
to protect women from various forms of violence. Such legal
protections include: Anti-Mail Order Bride Act of 1990 (RA 6955),
Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995 (RA 7877), Anti-Rape Law of 1997
(RA 8353), Rape Victims Assistance and Protection Act of 1998 (RA
8505), Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 (RA 9208),
Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004 (RA 9262).
On August 14, 2009, the Magna Carta of Filipino Women was passed into
law which aims to further institutionalise
the respect, protection and fulfillment of all Filipino women’s
human rights.

Despite
the existence of these laws, there is a significant imbalance in
practice and customary laws that discriminate women resulting in
the violation of their human rights.

Against
this backdrop is the development of information and communication
technology in the country and around the world. However, information
and communication technologies
(ICTs) policy in the Philippines is a fairly new and largely driven
by e-commerce and e-governance objectives. Policy actors are come
mainly from the private sector. An ICT
civil society organisations (CSO) network advocating policy
for gender equality through ICTs is in the early stages. Specific law
should be defined to prosecute perpetrators of violence against women
through the use of ICTs or cyberspace. National ICT institutions and
private companies’ policies cannot remain blind to the violations
to women’s rights perpetuated via ICTs.

Gender
inequality should be banished in law, in practice and in real and
virtual spaces.

In the
context of the new and fast developing ICTs, the most evident cases
so far of violence committed against women and young girls are
privacy rights resulting in the illicit production and distribution
of private and intimate activities. The violation of their privacy
rights comes in the form of sex-video
scandals via telephony and internet. Although there are no available
studies on how other forms of violence such as stalking or sexual
harassment and even direct threats are figuring as VAW via mobile
phones, it can be said that it is happening on a daily basis to women
and girls.

ICT is an
open global space and technology that is being
exploited for criminal activities for huge profit
and in sophisticated ways. Poverty and lingering economic crisis in
the country makes women and girls more vulnerable to the continuum of
violence committed against them, including in cyberspace. The
increasing trend of cyber-sex intertwined with cyber-pornography and
cyber-prostitution run
by criminal syndicates are victimising
innocent and vulnerable women and girls. These
concerns are also intricately linked to other forms of
violations such as trafficking and discrimination and
need further study. In cyberspace,
defining direct harm to women and girls is a contentious issue
and there is insufficient information available to
elicit serious attention and action from the government. This
also points to the nature of ICTs where
activities that can be attributed as violence against women are
difficult to “regulate”. However,
violence committed on children through online child prostitution and
pornography is a concern for all sectors. ICT is not only a
political and feminist issue it is also a platform to empower women
and girls and to eradicate VAW. Women’s
rights organisations are now realising
that ICTs should be linked to anti-VAW advocacy.

Available
published academic and independent research, news articles, policy
papers and legislation were reviewed as resources
in this country report. Participation in a
roundtable discussion on universal access to ICT has been
useful in collecting information from various ICT and women’s
rights advocacy groups. Nonetheless, the dearth of published
information on the intersection of VAW and ICT confirms the need for
more studies on this subject and reveals that the advocacy on VAW and
ICT has been done only recently by
pioneering advocates of ICT-related civil
society organisations.

Recommendations
include collaboration of ICT and anti-VAW organisations in national
policy advocacy that would eradicate VAW through the use of ICTs.
Policy advocacy should be complemented by
capacity-building within the ICT and
anti-VAW CSOs. Such
joint efforts would exemplify the use of ICTs as a platform to
end VAW.

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