It only takes a quick check of the comments section of any social media page to see rampant toxicity online, and sadly some of this escalate to online bullying, and worse, shameless movements such as the Pastor groups.  This only highlights the importance of updating pertinent laws to accommodate new technology and ways of communicating.

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On December 10, 2018 the House of Representatives (HOR) approved House Bill No. 8655, otherwise known as Expanded Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children (E-VAWC) Act. Lawmakers from the lower house of Congress voted unanimously, with 207 representatives in favor and none against.

"With the approval of the measure, we hope to give women an increased chance to fight forms of violence and abuse as we educate them on their rights. We will continue amplifying support for this legislative advocacy through our regular Anti-VAWC consultations at the barangay, municipal, city-wide and provincial levels,” Rep. Arlene Brosas said via a statement posted on Gabriela Women's Party List Facebook page.

The lawmakers who authored the bill—a consolidation of six different bills—urged the Senate to fast-track the counterpart measure. "If signed into law, this will be a precious legacy of the 17th Congress to women long suffering from all kinds of abuse and harassment,” Rep. Brosas added.

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ICT-related psychological violence

The proposed bill seeks to amend Republic Act No. 9262, or the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004, specifically Section 3C. It redefines psychological violence to add acts committed through the use of electronic devices or information communication technology (ICT)-related means.

ICT-related violence, according to the bill, is "any act or omission involving the use or exploitation of data or any form of ICT which causes or is likely to cause mental, emotional or psychological distress or suffering to the women and her children."

These include the creation and spread of explicit videos, photos, or any form of electronic or artistic expression to harass women and kids. Intimidation, coercion, threats, or vilifying via text messages or other cyber, electronic, or multimedia means is also a punishable offense, as is stalking and creating fake stories or fake social media accounts with ill intent and malice that will cause distress on the part of women.

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The bill penalizes any electronic acts of violence against women and children with a fine of not less than Php300,000 but not more than P500,000.

Other provisions of E-VAWC

Aside from the abovementioned provision, House Bill No. 8655 also upholds the 10-day paid provision leave for Anti-VAWC victims. Immediate supervisors or senior officials who fail to act on the leave application within 15 days, or those who deny the victims of this benefit due to prejudice will be slapped with a P10,000 fine and a 30-day work suspension.

The Inter-Agency Council on Violence Against Women and their Children would also include the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Department of Foreign Affairs, Commission on Overseas Filipinos, and two representatives from civil society organizations to widen its scope.

"This is a much-awaited development by women abused by their partners, as the measure expands the definition of VAWC to include forms of electronic violence, with corresponding penalties," said Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus, one of the principal authors of the bill. The party list has been pushing for the amendments since 2004.

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This story originally appeared on Smartparenting.com.ph.

* Minor edits have been made by the Femalenetwork.com editors.

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