The Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) is one with the nation in the observance of the 18-Day Campaign to End Violence Against Women. As an organization that advocates for human rights in a digital world, FMA looks into the intersecting issues of gender rights and ICT where mapping various forms of online gender-based violence (OGBV) are among our initiatives to help surface the need for safe online spaces for women. Through continued research and collaboration with women’s groups at the regional and global level, as well as engagement with various stakeholders, FMA upholds its commitment to help put an end to all forms of abuse against women offline and online.
Violence against women (VAW) is a grave violation of women’s rights and fundamental freedoms. It manifests deep-seated discrimination and gender inequality and continues to be one of the country’s perennial social problems. The 2017 National Demographic Health Survey reported that 1 in 4 ever-married women aged 15-49 has experienced any form of physical, sexual, or emotional violence by their current or most recent husband/partner.1 In 2018, the Philippine National Police recorded an average of 38 cases of VAW per day and the Social Welfare and Development Department served 237 VAW survivors in the same year; globally, 1 out of 3 women have experienced physical or sexual violence.
VAW is also reflected in the digital spaces. With the pandemic restricting people’s mobility, online platforms play a significant role in connecting Filipinos to services, support, and information. According to the Commission on Human Rights, the Internet has become integral to government response and people’s universal access to it should be recognized as a basic human right.
However, this is not to say that the Internet is free from any forms of abuse. Women and young girls have long been at the receiving end of a disproportionate amount of violence online such as harassment, unauthorized use of photos and/or videos, and blackmail. From January to June 2020, FMA saw a 30% increase of OGBV. In the last 11 months alone, FMA has monitored 118 cases of various forms of online gender-based violence. The reported incidents include deletion and manipulation of personal data, monitoring and tracking, repeated harassment, sharing and/or dissemination of private information, and unauthorized access of private data.
From civilians to celebrities to legislators and even students, women of all ages and backgrounds have been the subject of such violence. The red-tagging, attacks on sexuality, and disregard for women’s freedoms on social media platforms and various communication channels just shows the prevalence of discrimination that continues to threaten women’s rights even online.
As we reach yet another year of resistance, FMA continues to advocate for an Internet that is free from violence. Online spaces also have to be included in the fight to end VAW and in such endeavors, we call on institutions, ICT platforms, women’s groups, and citizens alike to work towards making the internet that does not overlook our fundamental freedoms but instead be one that supports them.
Violence against women, both offline and online, is a threat to the progress of gender equality. We call for a #VAW-free internet. Let us ensure that the internet is a safe space for women and girls, and that it is a platform for their empowerment, for expression and opportunity, rather than a space where they are abused and attacked. #