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Passage of law vs. gender-based online violence urged amid 'Pastor Hokage' FB groups

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Thursday called for the passage of a law that would impose stiff penalties against people who exchange lewd photos of women and children on social media, following reports of such Facebook groups.

Hontiveros’ Senate Bill No. 1251 or the Anti-Gender-Based Electronic Violence (GBEV) measure seeks to penalize those responsible for misogynistic and homophobic attacks on social media with a penalty of imprisonment of up to 10 years.

A number of secret Facebook groups, many of which hide behind religious names, have been exposed for illicitly sharing obscene photos of women among members.

“We must put an end to this online locker room talk, which is a manifestation of the culture of misogyny and commodification of women prevalent in our country right now," Hontiveros said.

The secret groups often bear names such as "Pastor Hokage Bible Study," with members using terms such as "Amen" to express their affirmation of illicit posts.

The bill filed by Hontiveros defines GBEV as "acts involving use of any form of information and communications technology which causes or is likely to cause mental, emotional or psychological distress or suffering to the female victim or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) victim, and tending to disparage the dignity and personhood of the same on account of his or her gender."

The offenses listed in the bill include harassing or threatening the victim through text messages, posts in social media sites and other cyber, electronic, or multimedia means.

Hontiveros' bill proposes the penalty of imprisonment of not less than five years but not more than 10 years and a fine of not less than P100,000 but not more than Five hundred thousand pesos P500,000.

The Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Women also vowed to conduct an investigation into the issue and hold accountable all those behind the said "secret groups."

"These people have no right to enjoy our internet freedom only to abuse our women and children. We will not allow them to shame our young women, suppress their right to express themselves through social media and contribute to a culture of misogyny and hate,” she said. 

“We will unmask all these misogynists, prosecute them to the full extent of the law and hold them accountable," Hontiveros added. —KBK/KVD, GMA News