This Day in #Herstory: Philippine Laws on Domestic Violence and Online Gender-based Violence

Domestic violence is one way in which unequal gender relations in Philippine society is manifested. It is an endemic issue that is continuously being addressed to end the normalization of a culture of violence against women. For years, the state has been spearheading legislation of anti-domestic violence laws in the Philippines for the elimination of all forms of violence against women and children both in public and private spaces.

These laws include:

But despite the emergence of a shift in values and perceptions on violence against women of the state and its citizen, there is one space that holds grave danger for women; one that is yet to be fully-penetrated by legislators and individuals alike — the digital arena. Technology-based violence against women has become a distinct phenomenon because of the medium and the mode to which it is propagated. Cyberspace and the virtual space have been its platform, making women easier targets of a patriarchal structure at this digital day and age.

Internet and Communication Technologies (ICT) have been an essential space for women, especially for practicing their freedom of expression and freedom of information. The internet has paved the way for women to be heard, to assert their rights, their identity, and their being, and have been an avenue for better participation in their public life, that includes sharing their political and developmental stances. However, the fluidity of the internet has high risks, especially for women in technology who are susceptible to gender-based violence. An increase of the use of ICTs means a growth in harms and violations for women users who, as time passes by, are at the receiving end of the proliferation of technological rampage and assault. Insufficiency (or the lack thereof) in the attention and recognition of the consequences of the propagation of technology-based violence at alarming rates keeps women and young girls vulnerable and exposed on the internet.

A 2014 study conducted by Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) and Association for Progressive Communications (APC) delves in the gender-based violence on Philippine internet and found out that it “remains relatively unexplored and less understood and as such has implications on women’s access to justice.” Furthermore, the study describes ICTs’ “borderless nature, the fluidity of digital personhood, the absence of physicality, and the anonymity and intractability it offers” all of which affecting the manner by which such violence is “committed and perpetrated, but also its effects and consequences, and its subsequent prosecution or non-prosecution.”

In the Philippines, gender-based violence that happens online usually takes in the form of sex video and photo scandals and child cyber pornography. Intimate photos and videos dissemination online without consent spread at a fast rates, especially when the women are involved are famous. Problems arise when videos are uploaded without consent as a pornographic material in websites or reproduced into VCD/DVD formats, and from the fact that uploaders are untraceable by the victims which hinders them from identifying and confronting who published the video or photo online. As a result, victims are cyberbullied with hate speeches about their immorality and slutshaming. This creates a culture of victim-blaming instead of holding perpetrators of such a lascivious crime accountable. In other cases, children are the victims of technology-based violence through cyberpornography. Most of the time, minors are forced to earn by their own parents or relatives for their families. They are made to watch pornography in preparation for their performance of sexual acts in front of a computer. In effect, women are being harmed through emotional and psychological pain, the invasion of their privacy, tarnished reputations, fear of going to public places due to judgment and discrimination, and cyberbullying. To make things worse, their personal lives are also affected as their work relationships and sustainable source of livelihood feel the hit of the negative impacts of being looked down upon in their victimhood. For children victims, psychological disorders may be exposed in later parts of their lives. Boys have a higher risk of aggression while girls will be tolerant of all forms of abuse and the vicious cycle of violence is, yet again, normalised.

In the past year, rampant proliferation of gender-based violence took another shape on social media networks like Facebook where billions of Filipinos are users. A number of secret Facebook groups, many of which hide behind religious names, have been exposed for illicitly sharing obscene photos of women among members. In some instances, women and young girls are being included in private chat groups wherein they are being objectified and sexually harassed by a group of men. This led for the uproar of women to end the disturbing act of GBV. Senator Risa Hontiveros, an advocate of space spaces for women and children, filed the passage of Senate Bill №1251 or the Anti-Gender-Based Electronic Violence (GBEV) on July 2017 to penalize perpetrators of gender-based violence online including those of homophobic attacks on social media. In this bill, GBEV is defined as “acts involving use of any form of information and communications technology which causes or is likely to cause mental, emotional or psychological distress or suffering to the female victim or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) victim, and tending to disparage the dignity and personhood of the same on account of his or her gender.” To date, this bill has been the only legislative measure to combat online gender-based violence in the form of harassment and threats in the cyberspace or any electronic means. The bill’s proposition of penalty is imprisonment of up to 10 years and a fine of Php100,000 to Php500,000.

But even before the passage of this Senate Bill, In the Philippines, there are ICT laws and policies that already exist. These laws include:

Note: No law is made especially to combat cyberbullying but in 2015, House Bill 5718 Anti-Cyberbullying Act of was filed. (More info here:

Despite these, there is still a lack of a human rights perspective and gender-responsiveness in Philippine ICT laws and policies. The law hardly ever accounts for technology-based violence against women despite the efforts to make it as flexible as possible and to be applied in prosecuting and used to address ICT-related violence against women. This goes to show that Philippine internet governance has a long way to go.

For more information, please click on the following links:

This article was written by Gen del Castillo, researcher at the Foundation for Media Alternatives.



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