“Impunity exists because social structures that should ensure the protection of women and children from violence do more harm by being indifferent and even anti-women.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — “Abusing women is not normal,” said former Sex Bomb dancer Sugar Mercado during the commemoration of National Day of Consciousness for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Wednesday, Nov. 25.
Women from different communities gathered at the Bonifacio Shrine in Manila to call for an end to all forms of violence against women and children (VAWC), which, they said, continue in spite of a myriad of laws to protect them.
Mercado has recently filed a civil case against her husband, for the protection and custody of her children, as well as a criminal case in violation of Republic Act 9263, or the Anti-violence Against Women and Children Act. Reports said since 2010, Mercado’s husband, Kristoffer Jay Go had “inflicted repeated emotional and physical abuse on her, sometimes with the direct and indirect involvement of Go’s parents.”
Repeated expressions of threats against her life and lately, threats of taking away from her the custody of her children, convinced her to file a legal case to protect her rights.
Mercado said she spoke and came out so that women who are in abusive relationships like her would have the courage to do the same.
Progressive women’s group Gabriela said one woman or child is battered every 16 minutes, and one woman or child is raped every 53 minutes. The group said only a few of these cases reach the courts and fewer still result to a conviction of the perpetrator.
The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) said that based on the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) report, one out of five women aged 15 to 49 suffered from physical violence. Six percent of them experienced sexual violence. Four percent reported violence even during pregnancy. But only 30 percent sought assistance to stop the violence.
Joms Salvador, Gabriela secretary general, said despite having a number of laws protecting women, the Philippines is still one of the countries with the highest cases of violence against women and children.
While the number of cases of violence against women and their children increases, many of the perpetrators are still at large.
Salvador said this is the harsh reality that Gabriela would like to emphasize to the public in today’s commemoration of the National Day of Consciousness for the Elimination of Violence against Women as mandated by Republic Act 10398.
RA 10398 was enacted in March 2013, as Gabriela Women’s Party representatives pushed for more systematic and comprehensive consciousness-raising efforts on violence against women and children. The law encourages activities on awareness-raising in government offices, local government units, media, schools and communities with the ultimate objective of eliminating such violence.
In social media, hash tag #LabananAngAbuso was also used as part of their campaign.
“Impunity exists because social structures that should ensure the protection of women and children from violence do more harm by being indifferent and even anti-women,” Salvador said.
Salvador said the village officials, who should provide the first line of defense for women and children victims, most often treat domestic violence and child abuse only as a family concern. She said police action is too slow because of the padrino system, bribery, or worse, the perpetrator is one of them.
“The judiciary has no sensitivity towards women victims and sometimes even resort to victim-blaming. No wonder violence continues despite more than 37 laws, executive and administrative orders to protect women and children.”
Salvador said that President Aquino’s administration registered the sharpest increase, with the number of victims of violence tripled: from 9,974 in 2010, to 31,937 in 2014.
Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns secretary general Kharlo Manano, meanwhile, urged the government to step up efforts in delivering justice to women and children victims of abuse, rape and other forms of violence, particularly in prosecuting liable state authorities.
Citing data gathered by Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC), Manano said 23 children, five of whom are girls, were killed by elements of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) during their military operations. On the other hand, he emphasized that encampment of state security forces inside schools and civilian houses had further increased the vulnerability of children and young girls to sexual violence.
Last May, a 14-year old Manobo girl from Talaingod, Davao del Norte was gang-raped by soldiers who encamped in her house. While criminal cases were filed against three perpetrators, they were instead held in the custody of the 10th Infantry Division in Davao City, and made to face court martial.
“The culture of impunity and the costly, slow-paced judicial system have made justice exceedingly elusive for the victims and perpetuated their further victimization. This is another failure of Daang Matuwid,” Manano pointed out.
“These violations are an addition to the long list of Aquino’s transgressions against the Filipino people to which he is ultimately accountable,” Manano said.
Poverty as form of violence
“As poverty worsens, violence against women and children also intensifies. Such sharp increase is testament to the inefficiency of the Aquino government’s programs such as the Conditional Cash Transfers and Cash for Work,” Salvador added. She cited Philippine National Police records which revealed that in Tacloban City, more than 60 cases of rape were noted after Typhoon Yolanda struck in 2013.
Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Emmi De Jesus said the state is the number one perpetrator of the violence against women in terms of lack of access and deprivation of basic social services such as, inaccessibility to health care, demolition of urban poor houses, and the burden of added expenses due to prolonged school years under the K to 12 program.
“We, in Congress will always strive to oppose policies that continue to inflict suffering to the women. We can push for pro-people laws and amend the existing law. But the violence against women will end if you will also act to end it,” said De Jesus.
One Billion Rising 2016
The One Billion Rising Revolution, the fourth since 2013, was also launched during the event. Monique Wilson, OBR global director said next year’s OBR will focus on the effects of policies that affect women globally.
“Economic violence is the biggest form of violence against women as women most of the time bear the brunt of its effects,” said Wilson.
She said they will call for the junking of neoliberal policies such as labor export policy, mining and all forms of exploitation of the resources as well as women.
National Day of Consciousness for the Elimination of Violence against Women is mandated by RA 10398. Across the globe, November 25 is marked as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW).