In a digital era, online content is packaged in various forms, presents different topics, and carries varying purposes. But in such a landscape where access is basically free, interpretation is open, and regulation is tricky, online creators have the responsibility to society to be mindful with everything that they produce and put out to the world.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
The Philippine Commission on Women, through our various official platforms, continues to receive reports on sites or pages that perpetuate harmful notions or practices against women and girls, including, but not limited to, sexual harassment, voyeurism, bullying, blackmailing, pornography, and exploitation.
Recently, a concerned citizen brought to our attention a social media page and video streaming platform channel that produces “prank videos” with various pranks showing the creators suddenly holding the hands of unsuspecting women in public, laying their heads onto women’s laps, and catcalling people.
Notwithstanding the intention of the creators, these pranks can be interpreted as acts bordering sexual harassment. These videos tend to normalize these demeaning behaviors with the general public being led to believe that yes, entering women’s personal space is okay and in fact, considered entertaining.
Worse, some generate income from doing tricks that people want to see on video, banking on subconscious desires that must not be manifested, clickbaits, and trends.
Time and again, the PCW reiterates the core principles under the Safe Spaces Act: acts done in the streets and public spaces and committed through any unwanted and uninvited sexual actions or remarks against any person regardless of the motive for committing such action or remarks can come under the purview of gender-based sexual harassment.
Hence, even if the content producers only deem these acts as “pranks” or “katuwaan”, they can still be committing gender-based sexual harassment.
But while some endeavor to keep the transgressions subtle and hide them in the guise of pranks, some creators have the audacity to be blatantly repulsive.
Recently, a page on a video streaming platform was flagged for encouraging and even giving tips or advice to the subscribers about grooming minors or having sex with them. Upon receiving reports from concerned citizens on this, PCW has been coordinating with authorities on the appropriate measures that must be taken.
While the channel which garnered more than 250,000 subscribers has already been taken down, the possibility of the perpetrator establishing another channel or using other platforms to post content about potential abuse cannot be dismissed.
Hence, the PCW is warning the said creator and all who intend to emulate him: With a single video, you can push a potential predator into molesting and raping a minor, which under our relevant laws, is a crime. Within minutes of watch time, you are perpetuating a culture of exploitation, violence, and abuse.
The PCW reminds creators and consumers alike that the age of sexual consent has already been raised from 12 to 16 with the passage of Republic Act 116481 – a landmark legislation that the Commission, legislators, and advocates have long fought for.
Under this law, an adult who engages in sexual activity with a minor aged below 16 is automatically guilty of rape, subject to very limited exceptions. Thus, those who will use the “diskarte” mentioned in forcing minors to submit to having sex can end up in jail.
We call on the appropriate agencies to investigate all erring creators who will demean and degrade women and girls, bordering on violating laws in place to protect their rights.
Having said that, the PCW recognizes that many creators are also leaning towards supporting advocacies, sharing knowledge, and inspiring people. Indeed, the digital realm will be safer and better if all will use their influence and reach to entertain without sacrificing quality and decency, to educate rather than degrade, and to promote, not violate, women and girls’ rights.
Choose to wield your influence towards the empowerment of Juanas.