Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has expressed alarm over the rising incidence of online violence against women though sexist remarks, vulgar language and rape jokes amid the unregulated nature of social media platforms and other online spaces.
De Lima, a staunch women’s rights champion, said it is high time to ensure the proper implementation of laws punishing gender-based sexual harassment online and offline, particularly the Republic Act (RA) No. 11313, or the “Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act” which she co-authored.
“Recently, we learned of news about women being on the receiving end of lewd comments, sexual jokes and misogynistic and sexist slurs in digital platforms, which should not be tolerated, much less ignored, especially during this time when COVID-19 has driven life online,” she said.
“Nakalulungkot at nakababahala na imbes na kilalanin at irespeto ng lahat ang karapatan ng kababaihan, nagagamit pa ang online platforms para gawing normal ang pambabastos, at lalong maabuso ang mga babae,” she added.
Of late, issues about rape culture and victim blaming became hot topics on social media platforms after several celebrities received derogatory remarks and offensive comments for their personal stance or self-presentation.
While some netizens were quick to condemn sexist remarks and rape jokes against women, other online users took to social media to blame women and tolerate the abusive acts.
It may be recalled that Frankie Pangilinan made headlines when she made a firm stand against rape culture and victim shaming in the Philippines and called out TV host Ben Tulfo who claimed that the way women dressed invited the “beast” or rapists.
Popularly referred to as “Bawal Bastos” Act, RA No. 11313 places cursing, catcalling, wolf-whistling, leering, taunting, misogynistic and sexist slurs, persistent telling of sexual jokes, and use of sexual names, among others, as gender-based streets and public spaces sexual harassment.
The specified acts may be punishable from community service of 12 hours up to arresto menor or 11 to 30 days imprisonment for the third offense while other unlawful acts, such as making offensive body gestures at someone, exposing private parts for the sexual gratification of the perpetrator, and stalking, to name some, may receive a graver punishment of imprisonment of up to a month and one day and up to six months under the law.
“Now, more than ever, the law should be strictly and properly implemented, and not exempt anyone, especially powerful people, from compliance,” she said.
“Sa panahon na mismong ang nasa pinakamataas na katungkulan sa gobyerno ay walang galang sa kababaihan, mas lalo pa dapat nating palakasin ang ating boses at paigtingin ang pagpapatupad ng batas para matigil na ang pambabastos at kawalang respeto sa ating dignidad at pagkababae,” she added.
If said incidents will be left unaddressed, the lady Senator from Bicol said these could embolden others to blame women for the sexual violence, harassment or rape inflicted upon them, while the perpetrators of these crimes walk away scot-free.
“We should not allow that to happen. Regardless of gender, everyone should be able to live full and secure lives free from fear, intimidation, harassment, and discrimination. Let’s not allow women to become more vulnerable to abuses,” she said.
In the 17th and 18th Congress, De Lima authored and co-authored several bills and resolutions advocating women’s rights, including Senate Resolution No. 670, seeking to strengthen compliance in the execution of gender-responsive programs by GAD to bridge the gap between men and women, Senate Bill (SB) No. 378 focusing on the protection of women in state custody, and S.B. No. 627, amending Sec. 40 of RA No. 9710, also known as the Magna Carta of Women. (30)