The world will commemorate on November 25 the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Sixteen years after the country adopted its first special law to protect women against sexual harassment and six other special laws thereafter, we continue to be hounded by an increasing incidence of violence against women.
The number of violence against women cases reported to the Philippine National Police rose by 52% from the figure of 2009, based on official figures compiled by the Commission on Women. From 3,687 cases in 1997, the reported incidence of violence against women has shot up to 15,104 in 2010, or nearly 400% increase in the face of supposedly stronger measures to protect our women.
There are many thousands more left unreported as some victims would rather avoid the stigma of public ridicule. The 2010 figure was the highest reported since 1997.
These statistics suggest either of two things – One, the number of violence in women cases is on the uptrend; or two, the number of cases may actually be going down, but because of greater awareness, more victims are coming out to assert their rights.
Whatever the reason might be, we cannot close our eyes to the fact that there were more than 15,000 documented cases of abuse against our women in 2010 alone.
The United Nations categorizes violence against women as the most pervasive human rights violation. It can come in the form of physical violence, sexual exploitation, trafficking in women, emotional abuse, rape, discrimination in the workplace, sexual harassment, among others. We have legislation to protect our women from these, but obviously, there is something amiss in the enforcement of policies.
UN studies indicate that as many as one out of three women worldwide will be “beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.”
An interesting data from the World Bank further states that women between the age of 15 and 44 are more likely to become victims of rape and domestic violence than become afflicted with cancer, involved in car accidents, affected in war or be infected by malaria.
What does this tell us? There is a glaring implementation gap.
Violence against women happens not because there are willing victims as others would suggest. These abuses happen because the situations of many of the women victims render them vulnerable to abuses and violence. State protection is weak, and in some cases, the authorities themselves, end up perpetrating the crimes against our women.
Let me focus on one of the most brutal forms of violence against women – rape.
The 2010 Human Rights Report of the United States indicated 4,776 reported rape cases in the Philippines from January to November 2010. This is 15% higher than reported in 2009. We can only assume much more remains unreported.
Incarcerated for the crimes of rape are 3,992 offenders, 42 of whom are serving life sentences. As if the growing incidence of rape is not unsettling enough, rape and sexual abuse of women sometimes happen right inside police stations or while women victims are supposed to be under the protective custody of our police. These incidents have been reported by media, and yet, just like other sensational stories, these cases are seldom reported back as “case closed”.
I wonder, Mr. President, how many of these reported cases have actually been resolved to give women victims a proper closure that will allow them to move on with their lives.
Today, we remember, the violence continues. Hopefully, in the years ahead, we can be thankful that violence against women has become a thing of the past.
Mr. President, we need to take stock of how much we have accomplished and whether our laws have been effective. The Anti-Mail Order Bride Act (RA 6955), Anti-Sexual Harassment Act (RA 7877), the Anti-Discrimination Against Women Act (RA 6725), the Rape Victim Assistance and Protection Act (RA 8505), the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, (RA 9208), the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act (RA 9262), and the Magna Carta of Women (RA 9710)-the list of legislated policies to protect women is long, but so is the list of documented cases getting longer.
We need to do more.
Mr. President, I laud the passage on third reading of the proposed Anti-Discrimination Act of 2011, which includes the prohibition of discrimination, profiling, violence and all forms of intolerance against a person on the basis of sex or gender.
I enjoin my colleagues in this chamber to also support the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2011. This will help intensify the enforcement of our anti-trafficking measures and provide the tools to promote the protection of victims, strengthen prosecution, and enable the re-integration of trafficking victims into our society. 2,000 cases of trafficking have been documented by the Visayan Forum last year. Hundreds more are documented by the Police each year. This has got to stop.
Mr. President, it is time to stop the climate of impunity for those who exploit our women. This can only be achieved with intensified enforcement, effective prosecution, and a proper closure to thousands of cases that should not only bring the perpetrators behind bars, but also result to the re-integration of victims back into the mainstream of society to lead normal and secure lives.
 Violence against Women: The Situation. UN Department of Public Information, November 2009
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International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women