Online sexual harassment on the rise, says CHR
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has called on the public to make the internet a safe place for all, especially for women, as incidents of online sexual harassment continue to rise.
In a statement Wednesday, CHR spokesperson Jacqueline De Guia said the agency has been receiving complaints of online sexual harassment, including peer-to-peer cyber violence, against women and girls.
De Guia said among the complaints CHR has received are from private groups on Facebook where members share explicit photos and videos “without the consent of one of the involved parties.”
“By acknowledging and being mindful of the dangers of the internet, everyone—from netizens to the government—has a shared responsibility of making the digital world a safe, respectful, and empowering space for all, especially women and girls,” De Guia said.
Victims, she said, experience threats of rape, stalking, defamation and even death.
“These put a premium on women and girls’ emotional and mental well-being; take away education and employment opportunities; and put financial burden on them for legal fees, online protection services, and missed wages,” she said.
Cyber violence against women also places a “chilling effect” on free speech and advocacy for victims as they are discouraged from speaking out “due to the possibility of being ridiculed and slut-shamed online.”
“Just because sexual harassment happened in virtual space does not make it any less real and damaging,” De Guia stressed.
While the Philippines has several legislation in place to protect women, De Guia pointed out that its implementation remains to be a challenge.
Among the laws she cited were the Safe Spaces Act, Cybercrime Prevention Act and Magna Carta of Women.
“But based on Philippine experience, law enforcement agencies and the courts are failing to take appropriate actions for cyber violence against women and girls due to lack of capacity and infrastructure to go after perpetrators given the digital nature of evidence,” she said.
In order to address online sexual harassment, De Guia said internet literacy, sex education and gender sensitivity must be included in curriculums. Establishing an accessible mechanism where victims can report cyber violence incidents must also be in place, she added.
Further, De Guia said victims of cyber violence be provided with “psychosocial and legal support at home, in school, and in workplace.”
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