In this age, more and more people are into the use of technology. The Internet has made a difference in the way we gather, receive and consume information; in the way we communicate, network and socialise with other individuals or groups, and transact business. The Internet has provided opportunities for women, such as, but not limited to knowledge and information on various issues, learning and business opportunities, scholarships and skills training, to mention some.

Social media has become an influential communication tool where new voices are emerging. It is a space where many are starting to comment on various issues, both personal and political. In the Philippines, social media is also a means for many Filipinos to get in touch with family members or friends abroad.[1]

The report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion to the UN Human Rights Council in May 2011 noted that “the Internet has become a key means by which individuals can exercise their freedom of opinion and expression” and that “the right to freedom of opinion and expression is as much a fundamental right on its own accord as it is an enabler of other rights, including economic, social and cultural rights” (A/HRC/17/27 para. 20 &22).

For women, information and communications technologies (ICTs) have provided vital spheres where they are able to express themselves, assert their rights and identities, initiate and enhance their participation in political and public life. The Report of the working group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice to the UN Human Rights Council in April 2013 noted that “women who are confined in private homes have used ICTs as a means to break out of their isolation and take part in collective action” and that “women who live under threat of attack because of their sexual orientation have found safety in the anonymity of the Internet” (A/HRC/23/50 para. 48).

But women and girls accessing the internet in the exercise of their rights likewise face risks and vulnerabilities. Just as violence is used to silence women out of public space offline, the experience of women and girls online reflect the same pattern. There is evidence that violence against women (VAW) involving the use of technology is growing, and the harms and violations perpetrated through and within ICTs are in need of serious attention. In the Philippines, there have been several media reports on how VAW has been perpetrated through the use of technology. FMA has also documented and mapped cases of technology-related violence against women (See ph.takebackthetech.net). Indeed, the last few years has seen a spate of images and sex videos being uploaded on the Internet without the woman’s consent, which is a violation of her bodily integrity and privacy. And with the borderlessness and multiple platforms afforded by the Internet, the violation is multiplied many times over.

In a country where the vast majority still has low access to ICTs and where the potentials of ICTs and the Internet have yet to be fully optimised, we need to address questions of access to and equity of marginalised sectors in the area of information and communications, and locate the digital divide within existing socio-political divides, including gender. These include promoting equitable partnership for innovative connectivity and community access alternatives to assert the agenda of disadvantaged sectors and communities; facilitating capacity-building sessions in the area of ICT literacy, ICT management, online collaboration, advocacy and secure online communications; helping different sectors and CSOs manage and develop content through appropriate tools and technologies, and the like. These also include addressing issues of safety for women and girls online.

There is a need to capture the voices of women and those with different sexual orientation and gender identity expressions into the conversation and find out what their issues are in relation to ICTs and the Internet in particular, and how these can be addressed.

————-

[1] About a 10th of the Philippine population is based abroad, as permanent residents or temporary workers. See www.dfo.gov.ph

Font Resize