Nica and Jothi from the Foundation for Media Alternatives shares their story about the struggle for legal redress for technology-related violence against women in the Philippines. Without the full recognition of women’s human rights, the path to recognition can sometimes act to cripple instead of empower. Nica speaks about the reality of women in her country, and what it takes for real protection of the rights of women.
Read her story. Be inspired. And share your own struggles and reflection on what it takes to address violence against women online in your country. Write a journal entry and email, tweet or upload it here.
Freedoms and Fears
I remember using my first computer when I was 16, using a dial-up internet connection, and buying my first mobile phone upon reaching 18.
With the advancement of technology, new innovations were created to connect peoples, as well as their advocacies. Internet and mobile technology enables connections that are no longer limited to a tangible physical space but have even become borderless. If this is the case, then you would think that freedom has become easier to exercise, enjoy; and mindsets can be changed in a snap with information just a mouse click away.
However, what if it’s the other way around? Technology is being used as a tool to reinforce gender discrimination and marginalization.
Just recently, the Philippine Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 or Republic Act 10175 was signed into law. At first, you would think that this is the law that would address emergent forms of technology-related violations such as cyberbullying, cyberharassment, cyberstalking and sex scandals. After all, R.A. 10175, they say was enacted in the name of women - to protect them from violence.
However, it is not clear in the law how it proposes to regulate these online violations. This is what usually happens when the framework is not founded upon the freedoms already won by our very active and dynamic women’s movement.
With R.A. 10175, instead of making the Internet as a liberating tool, as a space for empowerment, it has become a controlling one that creates fears to women. Obviously, women are at the losing end here.
Offline, putting women in the limelight every after raids in alleged sex dens and beerhouses, already put so much blame and shame on them, while the owners including the men patronizing such businesses were nowhere to be found.
Online, same thing or even worse can happen with the cybersex provision of R.A. 10175. It can make women victims as perpetrators of cybercrimes and penalize them doubly and harshly.
On the other hand, there are so much hate speeches, discriminatory notes going against women online. Some women activists belonging to LBTs (lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders) who also supports efforts of the Take Back the Tech Philippine campaign has also received numerous comments on social networking sites on how they were just ‘a waste’ since they are not of the heterosexual orientation. While it gives some comfort that R.A. 10175 will run after cyberbullies, it is not clear on how it will provide corrective measures to these discriminatory acts.
Because of the reinforcement of gender discrimination, marginalization and unwanted social constructs women’s groups have collectively spoken that they wanted R.A. 10175 deleted in their midst. If the government wanted to protect women against violence, the first thing it should have done is to have them onboard and consult them.
Have them draft policies that protect them from oppression. Put women at the center of development, have them contribute largely in phasing out the discriminatory social constructs in place and allow them to continue carrying the discourse on women’s rights in cyberspace. Lastly, to have the already existing protective laws work and not resort to knee-jerk reactionary laws with harsher penalties.
While there might be fears around because of the potential harm technology can inflict on women, the government acts should be that of education and empowerment, and not of immediate criminalization, and worse control. Us, women see, that an effective way to combat violence is to confront, and address the fears and claim the power of the freedom won.
We have to stand together and take control of technology to make sure that we strengthen our freedoms. Let us amplify our united women’s voices and demand what we all want - FREEDOMS not FEARS.
The Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) has been an active Take Back the Tech! campaigner since 2009. They seek to democratise information and communication systems and resources for local citizens and communities in the Philippines. FMA focuses on strategic interventions designed to promote the right to information and the right to communicate and explores the intersection of ICTs and violence against women.
FMA Take Back the Tech! 2012 campaign activities include:
- Co-organising the “Takbo ’Te Run for Equality” with the Proud to be LGBT campaign and the College of Human Kinetics Student Council to raise awareness on gender equality issues as well as fundraising for the Home of the Golden Gays, a care home for elderly LGBT people.
- Talking to students about tech-related violence and encouraging them to participate in mapping their experiences on the campaign map.
- Taking part in the Philippines PRIDE March in December.
- Releasing a declaration on tech-related violence along with different civil society partners working on internet rights, human rights and women's.
- Hosting a discussion on the Philippines' cybercrime law with women's rights groups.
Check out FMA's campaign page to find out more about their activities and their campaign materials, including digital stories and more.