The proliferation of ICTs is transforming various aspects of our lives, including our culture, and Filipinos have adapted and embraced its various uses. For women, the Internet is a vital sphere, where they are able to express themselves, to access media and political representation, as well as resources. It is a space for negotiation and fulfillment of their rights. ICTs are powerful tools and platforms for advocacy and organizing. Women’s rights groups utilize various forms of ICT to amplify women’s voices and help publicize women’s experiences and perspectives, disseminate rights based information, build women’s capacity and promote gender equality through networking and advocacy.[i]
But while ICTs, including computers and the Internet, can be extremely powerful tools for advocacy, they also present new risks for women.[ii] Media reports, including those received by law enforcement agencies point to an increase in violence against women committed in new spaces made available by the development of ICTs.[iii]
The thematic working group on discrimination against women in public spaces in 2013 in their report says that “The internet has become a site of diverse forms of violence against women, in the form of pornography, sexist games and breaches of privacy.”
Below are some of the emerging forms of VAW as a result of technology:
Cyberharassment. This refers to online harassment of women, which includes rape threats, doctored photographs portraying women being strangled, postings of women’s home addresses alongside suggestions that they are interested in anonymous sex, and technological attacks that shut down blogs and websites.[iv] Examples of cyber harassment include threats of sexual violence, doctored photographs of women, postings of women’s personal information, technological attacks that shut down feminist blogs and websites, and emails to forward unwanted proposals, to name a few.
The uploading and sharing of nude/sexually explicit photos and/or videos of an individual without the consent of women may also fall under the category of cyber harassment. There are also some who call it as revenge porn (although this is being contested). The sex videos of Katrina Halili and Neri Naic fall under this definition.
Cyberpornography. This refers to acts of using cyberspace to create, display, distribute, import or publish pornography or obscene materials.
Last year, there were many reports of raids of cybersex dens and arrests made by the police in Cebu City, usually victimizing minors. Early this January, news on online child pornography again hit the headlines after British and Australian police said that they dismantled a pedophile ring abusing children over the Internet.[v] The Philippine National Police in a report also acknowledged that the Philippines is among the top 10 producers of child pornography.[vi]
This year alone, the NBI raided 2 fake call center businesses that sold child pornography online to global clients.[vii]
It is also interesting to note that the adult website Pornhub said that Filipinos ranked 26th in the daily globe traffic when it comes to watching pornography. Filipinos rank 15th when it comes to watching pornography using mobile devices.[viii]
Cybertrafficking. This includes fake online “marriage agencies” or websites advertising non-existent work of study opportunities, as well the commercialization of private home videos.
Technology-related violence against women, although something which many people may consider as trivial because it occurs in ‘virtual’ or cyber space, is still violence. New forms of VAW violate women’s right to privacy, bodily integrity, freedom of association, and freedom of expression. Although the more common experiences relate to psychological harm caused by these new forms of VAW, it is something that can escalate into physical violence.
What differentiates the new forms of VAW from what we know as VAW is the mode of it commission, the anonymity that it offers the abuser, and the manner by which information (including digital images an videos) are distributed to a large number of people at a distance.
On the part of the Foundation for Media Alternatives, we have been engaged in this issue since 2009. We conduct information dissemination on the issue of gender and ICT. We have conducted several forums and workshops with various groups, including government, civil society, and schools to inform and educate people about the issue. We have conducted workshops on digital safety and security, especially for women and girls who are more vulnerable to online abuses. We have a crowd-sourced map where cases of eVAW have been reported. We also have a campaign called “Take Back the Tech!” where we encourage women and girls to take back technology for gender based activism.
[i] Anita Gurumurthy. Gender and ICTs: Overview Report. IDSS, 2004.
[ii] Tachtical Tech
[iii] APC study, NBI reports, various news items
[iv] Citron, D. “Law’s Expressive Value in combating Cyber Gender Harassment,” in Michigan Law Review, Vol. 108:373. December 2009
[v] “Secluded village in Cebu town identified as cybersex hot spot,” in Philippine daily Inquirer, January 27, 2014
[vi] “PH among top 10 producers of child pornography,” PDI 17 January 2014
[vii] “11 arrested over online child porn,” in PDI, 28 January 2014
[viii] “Filipinos rank 15th in global porn watching,” in PDI, 24 January 2014