February 21, 2017
"ONLINE VIOLENCE IS VIOLENCE" - HONTIVEROS TELLS YOUTH
QUEZON CITY - The digital is real, according to Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday, urging young people to stand against online violence, especially those that are driven by hate and misogyny. Citing data from the Foundation for Media Alternatives, Hontiveros said that there have been 160 cases of online violence, most of them in the National Capital Region. Hontiveros said that she is alarmed by the rise of gender-based electronic violence.
"Social media has become a powerful tool for expression, information and advocacy", the Senator said during the Talakayan ng Bayan (TALAB) conference organized by the Office for Social Concern and Involvement of the Ateneo de Manila University. "But it has also become an avenue for harassment, misogyny and homophobia", she lamented. Hontiveros, who chairs the Senate Committee on Women and Gender Equality, said that 57% of online violence resulted to physical harm and 53% have been perpetrated by someone known to the victim.
Also a victim
Hontiveros confessed that she is not exempt from online threats. "Ipapa-rape daw niya ako sa 24 na lalake", the Akbayan Senator revealed, quoting a Davao-based netizen who tweeted her. "Our team later found out he is not a troll but a real person with a real account, probably thinking those statements are harmless", she narrated.
But they are harmful, according to the Senator. "Online and social media should be safe spaces for self-expression. Instead, dark elements hope to silence women in this arena through threats of rape and violence". In November last year, anti-Marcos activist Anne Nicole de Castro also experienced online violence when male netizens threatened her with gang-rape. De Castro, a college student in one of the universities in Metro Manila, turned to the Senator to advocate against online violence.
Many of the victims are young people who use social media as their primary outlet of expression. These attacks have the effect of silencing this expression, and contributing to a culture of misogyny and hate. Filipino youth are the biggest consumers of the internet, with six out of ten aged 15-24 being regular internet users, and 78% having mobile phones. Currently, there are 47 million active Facebook accounts in the Philippines.
Anti-Gender Based Electronic Violence Act
The Senator advised that self-regulation is still the primary principle of online and social media use. "But there are those who cross the line, and the problem must be addressed". Hontiveros filed Senate Bill No. 1251 or the Gender-Based Electronic Violence Act. The proposed measure will penalize online harassment including threats based on a person's gender or sexual orientation. The bill is part of Hontiveros' Tres Marias Bills, including an expansion of the scope of sexual harassment to peer-to-peer harassment and the amendments to the Anti-Rape Law.
"There is an urgent need to institute protective measures and strategic policies to combat the prevalence of the rape culture in our society which leads to physical sexual assault and other forms of violence against our women and children", Hontiveros maintained.
"You have the power to change the social media landscape", Hontiveros advised the students in the conference. "With your peers, you can promote equality and respect, and finally stand up against online violence. Let's reclaim the internet", she concluded.
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