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Hontiveros files “Tres Marias” bills vs. gender-based electronic violence, peer-to-peer sexual harassment and rape

Senator Risa Hontiveros Photo © http://newsinfo.inquirer.net
Senator Risa Hontiveros Photo © http://newsinfo.inquirer.net

COINCIDING with the observance of the International Week for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Children (VAWC), Akbayan Party-list Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday filed three legislative bills to fight sexual harassment and violence against women.

Dubbed as the ‘Tres Marias” bills — the Anti-Rape Act (Senate Bill No. 1252), the Anti Sexual Harassment Bill (Senate Bill No. 1250), and the Gender-Based Electronic Violence (Senate Bill No. 1251), Hontiveros said the measures seek to strengthen the existing Anti-Rape Law, and criminalize gender-based electronic violence and peer-to-peer sexual harassment.

Hontiveros expressed alarm over the growing number of sexual harassment cases against women both offline and online. She cited the examples of Vice President Leni Robredo who was recently the subject of a nasty pregnancy rumor and students like Anne Nicole De Castro, who were sexually harassed online after participating in a protest action against the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos’ burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

“There is an urgent need to institute protective measures and strategic policies to combat the prevalence of the rape culture in our society which leads to physical sexual assault and other forms of violence against our women and children,” Hontiveros explained.

“Gender-based online violence”

The Gender Based Electronic Violence Act seeks to prohibit  and impose penalties on people behind misogynistic and homophobic attacks on social media, which it brands as gender-based electronic violence. Many of the victims are young people, who use social media as their primary outlet of expression. These attacks have the effect of silencing this expression, and contributing to a culture of misogyny and hate.

 Increasing the age of statutory rape

On the other hand, the Anti-Rape Act seeks to amend and modernize current legislation against rape.

It seeks to emphasize the absence of consent as the essential element of the crime of rape, over evidence of physical resistance and external injuries; increase the age of statutory rape to eighteen years old from the current age of twelve years old; introduce as aggravating circumstances (1) the use of video recording or electronic device during the commission of the rape; (2) the status of the offender as a personal of public or moral authority, when such authority is used to perpetrate the act of rape; (3) the perpetration of rape as a hate crime against those belonging to marginalized categories; and the repeal of the “forgiveness clause” in the Revised Penal Code.

 “Peer-to-peer sexual harassment”

Meanwhile, the Anti Sexual Harassment Act seeks to amend current anti sexual harassment legislation  by introducing sexual harassment between peers and those committed to a superior officer by a subordinate, or to a teacher by a student, or to a trainer by a trainee.

“It’s time to interrupt and end the culture of rape and male sexual violence. We will bring the fight to our very homes, workplaces and the internet. We will give no quarter to misogyny and sexism. We will not allow the gross and blatant disrespect, sexual assault and objectification of our women and children to continue to take safe refuge in our communities,” Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros was joined in the bill by women rights advocate, Dr. Sylvia Claudio and several student women leaders.

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