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House urged to pass law penalizing 'electronic' violence against women

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
House urged to pass law penalizing 'electronic' violence against women
Brosas said that the advancement of technology and the ease of communication have “provided fertile ground for violence against women and children to an alarming extent with little to no accountability.”
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MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker from the House of Representatives has called for the urgent passage of a proposed measure that will protect women and children from online or digital forms of violence.

House Bill 8009, which Rep. Arlene Brosas (Gabriela Women’s Party) sponsored at the plenary on Tuesday, defines electronic or ICT-related violence as any act that uses any type of information and communication technology to inflict mental, emotional or psychological suffering for women and/or their children. 

The bill consolidates a number of E-VAWC measures that the House women and gender equality committee approved in February. It amends the Republic Act 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children of 2004 to account for the rising number of offenses against women done through social media.

Brosas said that the advancement of technology and the ease of communication have “provided fertile ground for violence against women and children to an alarming extent with little to no accountability.”

Violence against women and children through social media

The bill defines electronic VAWC (E-VAWC) as acts that include, among others, unauthorized recording and distribution of photos showing genitalia, harassing or threatening women and/or her children through texts or other multimedia technology, stalking, spreading false information and the creation of fake social media accounts posing as an individual to inflict harm.

The consolidated measure also provides twenty days of paid leave of absence for victims of violence against women, in addition to other paid leaves under the Labor Code, Civil Service Rules and Regulations, and other existing laws and company policies. 

The paid leave allows women who have undergone extreme trauma to care for themselves as they weather its impact on their day-to-day life, Brosas added.

“Our services team in Gabriela Women’s Party receive an alarming number of cases of intimate partner violence perpetrated using social media, SMS texts, and other technology on a daily basis,” Brosas said.

“Furthermore, outdated laws and technology make it impossible to hold the perpetrator accountable under the current Republic Act 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act,” she added.

Brosas also reminded lawmakers that “invisible wounds” inflicted on women are also those that are the most severe, “and this trauma leaves a permanent mark on the lives of the victims,” she said in Filipino.

Supreme Court case could set dangerous precedent 

In her rallying cry to pass the landmark E-VAWC measure, Brosas also noted the Supreme Court ruling in July 2022 that established that the Anti-VAWC Law can be used against women who have allegedly committed abuse against their own children. 

Brosas said the ruling “(disregards) the fact that such decision can set a dangerous precedent for women victims who are already being deprived of justice under the current law.”

In a decision promulgated in July 2022 but published only in February, the Supreme Court ruled that fathers can file charges on behalf of minor children against allegedly abusive mothers.

RELATED: Mothers can be charged for violence against kids 

In 2021, the Philippine National Police (PNP) recorded over 12,000 cases of violence against women and their children (VAWC) across the country, with more than 8,000 incidents specifically targeting women.

According to a GMA report in February, cases of violence against women and their children also top the charges that have been filed against police officers before the PNP, with 24 out of 42 warrants of arrest related to violations of the Anti-VAWC Law.

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ELECTRONIC VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

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