Progress toward the Elimination of Violence against Women: The Philippine Experience

Manila Bulletin, December 9, 2003 | Go to article overview

Progress toward the Elimination of Violence against Women: The Philippine Experience


Byline: Chairperson AURORA JAVATE-DE DIOS

DESPITE many advances in every aspect of life, gender inequality persists globally, including the Philippines. Its most visible and pernicious indicator is the issue of violence against women.

Variously referred to as sexual violence or gender violence, this age-old reality gained currency only recently because of the significant work of women advocates and survivors in naming the problem.

The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women defines it as any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.

VAW takes various forms. It includes domestic violence, rape, trafficking in women and girls, forced prostitution, and violence in armed conflict such as murder, systematic rape, sexual slavery and forced pregnancy. It also includes honor killing, dowry-related violence, female infanticide and prenatal sex selection in favor of male babies, female genital mutilation, and other harmful practices and traditions (UN Fact sheet 2000). These forms show that VAW may be viewed in a continuum occurring at various stages of a womans life, starting even at prebirth up to her old age.

Gender-based violence is rooted in unequal gender relations where men have power and control over all aspects of womens lives. This notion is further reinforced by social and political structures that institutionalize this power imbalance.

Extent and Magnitude

Due to its sensitivity and impact on women and their families, many cases often go unreported. While the documentation of all forms of VAW in the Philippines has yet to be achieved, some data exist that indicate it is a pervasive social problem:

* The Philippine National Police reported 2,381 cases of domestic violence and wife battering during the first semester of 2003, with rape accounting for 556, or 12.8 percent, of the cases;

* The Department of Social Welfare and Development helped 3,471 women in especially difficult circumstances (WEDC) during the same period. Most of the cases 1,091 cases or 31.4 percent were on physical abuse, maltreatment and battering. One in every 10 cases was on sexual abuse, 68.1 percent of which were rape cases and 29.6 percent on incest;

* The DSWD estimated between 135,000 to 150,000 displaced persons due to conflictrelated incidents in Mindanao from January to November 2001, majority of them women and children;

* The Commission on Filipinos Overseas reported 1,013 recorded cases of human trafficking from 1993 to 2002, 64.5 percent of whom were women victims and 19.1 percent were forced into prostitution; and

* Migration-related violence such as sexual and physical abuse is an urgent issue for the country with the highest number of women working overseas, especially those involving domestic helpers and entertainers.

Initiatives and Progress to Eliminate VAW

In the Philippines both government and nongovernment organizations have been making tremendous and significant progress in addressing VAW. This development is due in no small measure to the impact of initiatives in the UN and the international womens movement. Apart from being supportive of these initiatives, the Philippines has brought to the worlds attention the problem of trafficking of women and girls and violence against migrant workers through the various resolutions it sponsored in the UN.

Legislation and policies

Some of the countrys more significant laws that respond to gender-based violence are:

* Republic Act 7877 or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Law;

* RA 8353 or the AntiRape Law;

* RA 8505 or the RapeVictim Assistance and Protection Act; and

* RA 9208 or the AntiTrafficking Law. …

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