All over the world on November 25, women will be holding mobilizations, protest actions and awareness-raising activities such as lectures, conferences, round table discussions, cultural fora and press conferences to condemn violence against women and imperialist aggression.
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
Gabriela Women’s Network and the International Women’s Alliance (IWA) have issued the call to all women from all walks of life to join the internationally-coordinated actions on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The IWA said that all over the world on November 25, IWA-allied groups will be holding mobilizations, protest actions and awareness-raising activities such as lectures, conferences, round table discussions, cultural fora and press conferences to condemn VAW and imperialist aggression.
In the Philippines, women’s group led by Gabriela will hold a protest in Mendiola at 1 p.m.. Earlier in the day, however, the Manila City government through the office of Mayor Lim will open an exhibit and launch the city hall’s legal assistance program for women-victims.
Earlier this week, Gabriela Women’s Party’s two representatives in Congress opened a photo exhibit entitled “The Seven Deadly Sins Against Women.”
GWP Representatives Luz Ilagan and Emmi De Jesus were joined by Pangasinan Rep. Gina De Venecia and officers of the Center for Women’s Resources, and Just Associates. The photo exhibit which runs until Nov. 29 at the Ramon V. Mitra Hall features photographs and illustrations by various artists and photojournalists . The themes portrayed are rape and incest; domestic violence; sexual harassment; sex trafficking; white slavery and prostitution; discrimination in the workplace; inaccessibility of health services; and state-instigated violence.
Former political prisoner and spokesperson of the human rights group SELDA Angie Ipong also delivered a message. She spoke about her ordeal as a victim of state-instigated violence and stressed the importance of women’s participation in the fight against violence. Ipong, 67, was illegally arrested, manhandled and tortured in March 8, 2000. Also present during the exhibit opening were Mercy Castro of the Morong 43 who was denied health services despite her difficult pregnancy in jail; and family members of Ampatuan Massacre victims.
Also present at the exhibit opening were Bulacan Rep. Linabelle Villarica, Kabataan Rep. Raymond Palatino,and ACT Teachers Partylist Rep.Antonio Tinio.
It was also announced that on December 2, a film about women political prisoners “Ka Oryang” is also scheduled to be shown at the UP Film institute. Part of the proceeds will go to the legal and campaign fund for the immediate release of Maricon Montajes, a B.A. Film student in University of the Philippines, a media practitioner, a woman political prisoner in the Batangas City Jail.
Prosecute the former president for crimes against women
The two GWP lawmakers, in the meantime, declared their full support for calls for the prosecution of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for cases of plunder and human rights violations.
“We demand the immediate prosecution of Mrs. Arroyo and hold her accountable for the human rights violations committed during her term. We demand that President Benigno Aquino III facilitate the prompt and expeditious handling of these cases. His failure to do so will make him an accessory to the impunity and violence perpetrated by the Arroyo regime.”
Ilagan who hails from Mindanao said two years after the death of 58 women and men, including 32 journalists in the Ampatuan Massacre, 103 of the 196 suspects have not been arrested and only two of the principal suspects have been arraigned.
For her part, de Jesus said, the violence and persecution that women endured under the regime of the country’s second woman president cannot be underscored enough. “Let us not forget Eden Marcellana, Benjaline Hernandez, Liliosa Posa, Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno. Let us not forget the thousands of human rights workers, indigenous people, women, children, students, and journalists, who were victims of her extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances.”
Citing data from Karapatan, the Gabriela solons noted that under Mrs. Arroyo’s regime there were 1,208 cases of extra judicial killings, 206 cases of enforced disappearances and 1,099 cases of torture.
“Gabriela Women’s Party calls on President Aquino to remain firm and not be swayed by any legal processes that the Arroyo camp will press. Instead, he should now file the plunder cases and human rights violations cases against Gloria Arroyo. He should ensure that Mrs. Arroyo be jailed, stay in jail and be punished for all the sins she committed against the Filipino people.”
Ipong and Castro decried the special treatment being given the former president. “The callousness with which we were treated is a far cry from the treatment that Mrs. Arroyo is getting. We were denied medical services and we were subjected to torture and humiliation.”
Women against imperialist aggression
In 1999, the United Nations declared the date as anti-VAW day to draw attention to the need to end gender-based violence.
In a statement, the IWA said women of the world should remember all the women freedom fighters and freedom-defenders who have been killed or were disappeared as they fought for the convictions. The group cited the brutal murder of the Mirabal sisters half a century ago by the military forces of the Trujillo dictatorship of the Dominican Republic and said that women all over the world should honor the “Inolvedables Mariposas” (Unforgettable Butterflies), for their contribution to the struggle for freedom and justice that continues to inspire freedom fighters.
According to the IWA, as women fight against VAW, they should also put their struggle against violence against the violence wrought by the world capitalist system. It said capitalist powers, despite the deepening crisis they are suffering continue their acts of exploitation and oppression against the people of the world.
“They launch wars of aggression and occupation, support repressive and corrupt regimes and build the infrastructure of repression in connivance with puppet regimes and client states to block any form of resistance against this domination,” it said.
The anti-imperialist women’s alliance said these wars of terror are wreaking havoc in the lives of women and girls. To the group’s reckoning, of the more than one million estimated casualties of the War of Terror in the Middle East since 2003 alone, more than half of the victims were women and children.
“Those who survived had to endure the loss of their loved ones, homes, livelihood, way of life and dignity. In areas torn by war or occupied by military troops, women become victims to all types and forms of abuse and exploitation. Women and girls of all ages are vulnerable to rape and other sexual abuse employed systematically as a weapon of war to humiliate, intimidate or terrorize communities,” it said.
As if it was not enough that women and children suffer not only during conflict, the horrors they face as they struggle to escape conflict are also enormous. It said that of the four million people displaced by the wars, 80 percent are women. It said that women living in refugee camps are cramped and subjected to harsh conditions and lack of even the most basic human needs such as food, water and sanitation, while women seeking asylum in other territories are held in restriction with limited to no access to human rights protection and justice.
“Whether in refugee camps or in asylum, women “bite the bullet” in order to survive.As poverty and hunger cripple their families, many women caught in the midst of these wars are forced to enter into prostitution in order to obtain food, shelter or protection. They work in bars, brothels and other entertainment establishments to serve the needs of foreign troops as part of their rest and recreation activities,” the group pointed out.
The IWA also slammed how the super-powers collaborate with repressive and corrupt governments in their wars of aggression under the anti-terrorism or counter-insurgency banner. It said the government of countries like the United States and those in the European Union support the curtailment of the fundamental rights and freedoms of the people in Asia, Africa Latin America and the Middle East.
Almost half a million American troops, for instance, are deployed in 150 countries and around $6 trillion was given by the United States as military support to “allied” countries in the last 10 years.
“In exchange for aid, governments impose anti-terrorism and counter-insurgency policies and strategies aligned with the big powers and against any form of resistance either from civilian or revolutionary groups and individuals. Among the common counter-insurgency tactics practiced by governments are the killing and persecution of political activists,” it said.
In the Philippines, the IWA said, women are not spared from extrajudicial killings. According to reports, the Philippines ranks at the top of the list of countries in Asia with the most number of victims of extrajudicial killings, which includes 156 women since 2001. Elsewhere such as in Pakistan, approximately 140 political activists, journalists and students had been killed in 2010 alone. Indigenous women of Guatemala and Mexico are also victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearance.