December 1, 2020

A pleasant afternoon to all.

Two days ago, we joined the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The Philippines has made great strides in enacting vital pieces of legislation to protect the rights and welfare of our women and children. Our efforts have resulted in the passage of the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act, Magna Carta of Women, Anti-Child Labor Law, the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act and its expanded version, which was the first anti-trafficking law in South East Asia, among other related laws and policies.  Despite the existence of these laws, however, gender-based violence continues to be rampant until today.

According to the National Demographic and Health Survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority in 2017, one in four of ever-married Filipino women aged 15-49 has experienced physical, emotional or sexual violence by their husband or partner.

In 2019, data gathered by the Philippine National Police – Women and Children Protection Center (PNP-WCPC) showed that there were 9,935 reported cases of violence against women and children from April to June 2019 alone. Just this March, the Center for Women’s Resources reported that at least one woman or child is abused every 10 minutes in the country.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also brought an even more alarming rise in gender-based violence. Due to the imposition of lockdowns and quarantine measures, women and children are vulnerable even in the confines of their own homes. In May this year, the International Justice Mission (IJM), in partnership with the U.S. Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP Office) and the Philippine Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), released a study where the Philippines has unfortunately been referenced to as the global hotspot for online sexual exploitation, or OSEC. OSEC is considered as a family-based crime as most perpetrators have been identified as immediate relatives and of the victims.

These are alarming numbers. 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.

As I already mentioned, we already have the needed legislation in place to protect our women from all these abuses and violation.  What needs to be strengthened is the enforcement and implementation of these laws and policies.  Perhaps a review of challenges and policy gaps to eliminate gender-based violence and violence against women and children is in order.  As in any social ill, these problems cannot be solved by one department, or agency, or center alone.  A whole-of-society approach is needed as women and children in these difficult circumstances need all our support,  encouragement and assistance.  They need our understanding, not our judgment.

We must start in our own homes and our respective communities – as fellow women, mothers, and sisters.  I believe that through collective efforts, we can make a difference in their lives.  In the House of Representatives, the theme that we have adopted for our campaign is, “VAW-Free Community Starts with Me.”  As fellow women, it is our duty to empower and educate each other. Let us all stand tall and stand together against all kinds of violence and abuse.

Today, we recognize that the problem continues to persist.  Hopefully, in the years ahead, this will become a thing of the past.

 Thank you and have a pleasant afternoon.