Feminist reflection on internet policies

Changing the way you see ICT

Philippines: Violence against women and ICT

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The Philippine governmenti 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 rightsi.

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) policyi in the Philippines is a fairly new and largely driven by e-commercei and e-governancei objectives. Policy actors are come mainly from the private sector. An ICT civil society organisationsi (CSO) network advocating policy for gender equalityi 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 cyberspacei. 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 privacyi 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 interneti. 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-pornographyi 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 advocacyi.

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 accessi 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-buildingi 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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