Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Social Media as a Tool for Violence Against Women

RA 9262 or what has now become more popularly known as the Anti-VAWC Act, aims to give relief to the women who have been subjected to violence by their partners and even ex-partners.
"Violence against women and their children" refers to any act or a series of acts committed by any person against a woman who is his wife, former wife, or against a woman with whom the person has or had a sexual or dating relationship, or with whom he has a common child, or against her child whether legitimate or illegitimate, within or without the family abode, which result in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, psychological harm or suffering, or economic abuse including threats of such acts, battery, assault, coercion, harassment or arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
One of the punishable acts under RA 9262 is “stalking”:
"Stalking" refers to an intentional act committed by a person who, knowingly and without lawful justification follows the woman or her child or places the woman or her child under surveillance directly or indirectly or a combination thereof.
It is worthy to note that how the law currently defines “stalking” seems to only cover stalking as a physical act by qualifying it with the term “follows”. What if “stalking” or any other act that could possibly result to harassment takes place in cyberspace?

Non-physical acts of harassment have become more prevalent in the advent of social media. Women who have become victims of these are, more often than not, made to resort to the remedies provided by the Anti-Voyeurism Law.

Say if an ex keeps on sending text messages or emails that make the woman very uneasy and feel unsafe, does that not amount to stalking as well? The ex isn’t exactly “following” the victim in the physical sense of the word, but the ex is nonetheless causing harm, psychologically.

Or what if the ex then uploads certain revealing pictures and videos of him and the victim together? It is not simply an invasion of privacy. It is a crime: An act punishable not only under the Anti-Voyeurism Law, but also, and more importantly, the Anti-VAWC Act.

Around 2003, the La Salle Scandal broke out. I was still in college then and the tsismis became more intriguing then, because I somehow knew the girl involved. While the rest of the world watched how that video became “viral” (through the reproduction of VCDs), I became more interested in the back story. From what I learned, the video was made in 2000, while the girl was still with her then boyfriend. She and the guy eventually went their separate ways. It was only in 2003 when the now ex-boyfriend allegedly distributed copies of the incriminating video. At the time the scandal broke out, she had already graduated from college and was hired by a multi-national company.

Years have passed and such a scandal and the sensation that came with it have already faded. Since then, however, I never heard of any case filed in relation to such an incident. The girl in the video had to endure the shame and humiliation without resorting to any legal remedy. I’m just not quite sure why this is so, but, surely, this is such bitter ending to her already unpleasant experience.

All abused women have to know that they are fully protected by the law. The use of social media, and even technology in general, to may tend to spread humiliating information about women should not be known simply as a crime of invading one’s privacy. It is primarily a form of violence.

Ma. Eliza Christine Gomez, Entry #6

Previous posts: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5

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