Cybercrackdown on gays feared

Transgender and gay members of an activist group are wary that the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 signed last week by President Benigno Aquino III will unleash a massive wave of extortion, harassment, and sufferings in the hands of law enforcement and anti-gay groups.

Transgender and gay members of an activist group are wary that the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 signed last week by President Benigno Aquino III will unleash a massive wave of extortion, harassment, and sufferings in the hands of law enforcement and anti-gay groups.

The Progressive Organization of Gays (ProGay) said that Republic Act 10175 contains vague provisions that can criminalize a wide array of shared electronic activity between consenting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) adults, and also invade their personal privacy.

Particularly worrying to LGBTs is the definition of Cybersex crime, which could fetch six to ten years of jail time or a fine of up to half a million pesos. “The wilful engagement, maintenance, control, or operation, directly or indirectly, of any lascivious exhibition of sexual organs or sexual activity, with the aid of a computer system, for favour or consideration”.

“There are many transgenders who are forced by poverty into baring their bodies before a webcam just to feed their families and send their siblings to school, and they are unwilling victims of trafficking by profiteers. This law can potentially double the victimization of poor trans and gay persons because the terms ‘wilful’ and ‘favor and consideration’ are so vague. The law can deem trafficked persons consented to work for pay,” explained Clyde Pumihic, secretary general of ProGay Baguio.

Pumihic added that for almost a century, transgender and gay Filipinos engaged in sex were targetted by police who used the abolished Anti-Vagrancy provision of the Revised Penal Code in the streets and bars. “But now, they have this PNP and NBI fielding the Office of Cybercrime agents who will stalk trans and gay prostitutes by the thousands without even having to prowl on patrol cars, they just have to use a keyboard to hunt us down.”

Pumihic also warned that the Cybercrime law can also be used by thugs, syndicates, and other private violent groups in entrapping and blackmailing innocent LGBTs who are simply surfing online for dates or fleeting acts of exposure. “Instead of protecting us from the real cybercriminals, this law is indeed unwittingly turning us into cybercriminals!”

The group also foresees increase risk for HIV and STD transmission if online sex is criminalized. “Consenting online sex using just shared images and words in real time are a safer alternative to meeting strangers who may harbor infections or life-threatening violent behavior. This law clearly can contribute to deaths by hate crimes or illnesses if online sex is penalized.”

The ProGay leader appealed to the Supreme Court to declare the law unconstitutional because of its invasive threats against the private lives of LGBTs. The group also called on Aquino to instead work to pass the Antidiscrimination Law in Congress and provide decent jobs with living wages to save trans and gay persons from the clutches of cyberprostitution

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