Instead of Cybercrime provisions, Gabriela pushes for revised law on violence against women
(This report was first published in print in issue 22 of the Philippine Collegian on 24 January 2013.)
by Jul Mar Esteban
Representatives of women’s party-list group Gabriela are pushing for amendments to Republic Act (RA) 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act (VAWC) as an alternative to the Anti-Cybercrime Law’s provisions on “cyber” violence against women.
On January 15, the same day the Supreme Court began the oral arguments on the assailed Anti-Cybercrime Law, Gabriela solons Luzviminda Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus filed the proposed amendments through House Bill (HB) 6815, which includes acts of electronic violence against women (EVAW) as punishable by law.
“[It] is not difficult to see that… information and communications technology (ICT) can cause more damage and violence, which are often indelible in nature. [It] is also regrettable that [VAWC] failed to positively mention the existence of [EVAW],” read the explanatory note of HB 6815.
Enacted in 2004, the current VAWC offers protection to women and children who have been victims of physical, psychological, and financial abuse but does not explicitly cover those who are abused through “electronic” means.
In 2009, Congress passed RA 9995, or the Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act, but the said law only covers acts of capturing or broadcasting of images or videos of sexual acts or private parts without the consent of those involved and does not mention other forms of online violence.
If passed, HB 6815 will include EVAW as a criminal offense which encompasses all “acts that use ICT which cause or are likely to cause mental, emotional, or psychological distress to the victim.”
HB 6815 will also cover other acts of online violence such as uploading images or videos of sexual acts and private parts without consent, using a victim’s name or picture on a program or application depicted in a bad light, and harassment, threatening, or stalking through ICT.
Perpetrators of EVAW will also be fined up to P500,000 and imprisoned for up to six years. Law enforcement agencies will also be required to immediately remove any uploaded or broadcasted EVAW content.
Cybercrime Law vs. women’s rights
Although the Cybercrime Law has provisions for sexual content, it penalizes those in the video and not those who uploaded the content, said Gabriela Internal Deputy Secretary General Gertrudes Libang.
“Sinasabi na one of the merits of the Cybercrime Law is its provisions on E-VAW when in fact it does not uphold the rights of women [and children],” said Libang.
The Cybercrime Law tackles EVAW in Section 4c1, under Cybersex, defined as “willful engagement, maintenance, control, or operation of any lascivious exhibition of sexual organs or sexual activity, with the aid of a computer system”. This implies that those seen in sex videos will be penalized, whether or not the video was uploaded with consent, Libang.
“Lumalabas na dalawang beses nadedehado ang babae. Una, dahil sa kahihiyan na dulot ng paglabas ng ganitong video. [Ikalawa], makakasuhan siya [sa ilalim ng Cybercrime Law],” she explained.
Aside from launching protests and demonstrations to gather public support and pressure the Congress, Gabriela is set to launch a lobbying a campaign to enjoin lawmakers to co-author the bill and vote for its passage, Libang said.
“Kung hindi maipapasa ang amendments na ito, walang batas na [magtatanggol] sa mga biktima ng EVAW. Kailangang maipasa ang mga ito upang matigil ang immunity na ibinibigay ng internet sa mga [nang-aabuso] sa kababaihan [at kabataan],” Libang added. ●
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