CHR supports bill expanding Anti-VAWC to cover online abuses

Kaycee Valmonte - Philstar.com
CHR supports bill expanding Anti-VAWC to cover online abuses
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MANILA. Philippines — Recognizing rapidly changing technologies and how these may cause harm to other people, the Commission on Human Rights backed a bill that aims to expand the current Anti-Violence against Women and their Children Act to cover online abuses.

In a statement on Monday, the CHR pointed out that “protecting human rights necessitates legislative adaptations to technological and online developments.” 

“In a space saturated with unfiltered online content, anonymity, unmoderated social interactions, and clout-chasing trends, which harmful entities can use to exploit unsuspecting victims, [House Bill 8009] provides legal protection that is relevant and responsive in today’s digital age,” it added.

HB 8009 or the Expanded Anti-VAWC Act, which adds provisions specific to online harassment and violence, hurdled second reading at the House of Representative last week. It is a consolidated version of E-VAWC measures that the women and gender committee at the lower house greenlighted in February. 

The proposed bill hopes to protect women and children from being recorded unknowingly showing sexual conduct or expressions as well as “any purported violent and errant behavior” and having these materials distributed online. 

It aims to protect women and children from being stalked, harassed, threatened and having false information about them spread online. The bill also covers protection against fake social media accounts pretending to be them. 

The bill will also grant victims of VAWC a 20-day paid leave to help them recover from the trauma. 

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

The United Nations Population Fund recognizes that gender-based violence online or through other communication technologies may take many forms, including but not limited to sextortion, sharing of nudes or other intimate photos of partners without their consent, cyberbullying, online grooming of children, as well as cyber stalking. 

The pandemic made things worse for women and children facing abuse. 

A study prepared by the Foundation for Media Alternatives ahead of the Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines in March 2022 logged 579 cases of online gender-based violence, specifically against women, from 2012 to 2021. There was also a 165% increase of VAW amid the pandemic—the most common being taking photos or videos without consent, disseminating private information, and abusive comments. 

The Department of Justice also noted in 2020 that the online sexual abuse and exploitation against children rose 246.6% during the quarantine, with 202,605 reported cases from 76,251 in 2019. 

RELATED: Police told to be proactive vs violence against women and children during ECQ

“We are hopeful that HB 8009 will help reduce the vulnerability of women and children on the internet,” the CHR said.

“With the concrete protection outlined in the proposed bill, women and children will be able to safely use and participate in online spaces free from fear.”

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