POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 23 February 2012, Thursday
A Culture of Domestic Abuse
Last Valentine’s Day, instead of gabbing about their lovelives over coffee and cake, a group of women gathered to discuss a pressing and urgent matter, one that impacts the lovelives of all Filipinos.
The “Soul Sisters for RH”, a group of legislatrices urging the passing of the Reproductive Health Bill, held an open forum to exchange views on issues concerning women, relationships, and how these relate to the RH bills now pending in Congress.
The group comprises representatives Jaye Lacson-Noel, Kimi Cojuangco, Sandy Ocampo, Bernadette Herrera-Dy, Abigail Ferriol, Sharon S. Garin, and Emmeline Y. Aglipay.
Among the topics discussed, I was most interested in a disturbing fact mentioned by Rep. Aglipay (DIWA partylist) – that violence against women has been increasing.
According to the 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey of the National Statistics Office, “One in five women aged 15-49 has experienced physical violence since age 15. More than fourteen percent of married women have experienced physical abuse from their husbands; and more than one-third or thirty seven percent of separated or widowed women have experienced physical violence, implying that domestic violence could be the reason for separation or annulment.”
These are horrendous statistics. Can we, “the only Catholic country in Asia” and all that, supposedly having a strong moral foundation, hold our head high as being morally upright? No. These figures are too high.
This increase in the incidence of abuse has occurred despite the passage of Republic Act 9262, the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004 (VAWC), which “granted the government the right to intervene in case of household violence or abuse against women and children. (Association for Progressive Communications).”
National Anti-Poverty Commission assistant secretary Lila Ramos Shahani notes that “The implementation gap in this country continues to remain particularly glaring…Violence against women and trafficking are overt manifestations of gender inequality in the Philippines and its prevalence in our patriarchal culture.”
Domestic abuse is a stark reality of life in the Philippines, no matter how much some people will try pretend it doesn’t exist. I remember attending a Bible study at a ritzy international church in Makati some years ago. The other members were older ladies from the ultra-wealthy set, coming to Bible class with Louis Vuitton handbags slung over their arm. One day we were discussing what sort of ministry to provide to womens’ correctional inmates; I suggested some sort of therapy workshop for abused women. One of women shuddered. “I can’t believe there is such a thing!” she exclaimed. “How can men hurt the women in their family? My father and husband love me and spoil me so much!”
I told her I myself was the victim of terrible physical abuse from my ex-husband. I proceeded to tell her a few stories from that dark period. Her eyes wide, she edged away from me, shaking her head, clutching her Epi leather LV closer to her chest. I left that church soon after.
Men are also likely to downplay the abuse that occurs. After a particular severe beating (I was gagged with duct tape and tied with leather straps), I went to the police precinct in our area to report the incident. The policeman on duty took down my statement in the blotter, but refused to take any other action. “Away mag-asawa yan,” he said. “That’s none of our business.”
Last week, a woman who lives a few doors away from ours was telling neighbors that the week before, she caught her seaman husband and another woman together in a motel. Her husband dragged her home and beat her savagely. Having been caught being unfaithful, siya pa galit. The wife sported a black eye and bruises after that. The entire neighborhood saw.
According to the author of a version of the RH Bill, Rep. Edcel C. Lagman (Albay), the proposed law “is not anti-life. It is pro quality life.” Among other benefits, it provides for the “elimination of violence against women.”
It is doubtful whether the bill can be passed before the Congress recess on March 13, given the focus of lawmakers now on the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
What’s important is to ensure that the attention on the RH Bill does not wane. “Out of sight, out of mind.” Delaying this important matter does our country a great disservice, and continues to keep us locked in the shackles of fear and ignorance created by the dark side of culture and law.
As a citizen of this Republic, I urge – no, I demand – the passage of the RH Bill, and other legislation that will adequately protect women and children from pain and hurt inflicted by those obligated and sworn to protect and cherish them, not only at home, but in the societal milieu. ***