Violence against women, a major concern during pandemic

posted March 12, 2021 at 12:20 am
by  Jenny Ortuoste
"Despite the gains, there is still a long way to go in breaking the patriarchal mindset that normalizes violence."


The pandemic brought not only health and economic challenges but also heightened tensions at home that have likely led to an increase in domestic violence.

Recently, the Commission on Population and Development (Popcom) renewed its call for the protection of Filipino women after a recent Social Weather Stations survey showed that 1 out of 4, or 25 percent, of Filipino adults nationwide cited violent acts against women as among the most pressing concerns of women during the pandemic.

Of the 25 percent of Filipinos nationwide, 11 percent mentioned physical violence as a concern, while 7 percent cited sexual violence and 7 percent, emotional violence.

The figure was higher for Manila: 29 percent (13 percent physical, 7 percent sexual, 9 percent emotional). In the rest of Luzon, it was 28 percent (13 percent physical, 7 percent sexual, 8 percent emotional).

In Mindanao, 24 percent of respondents gave similar answers (11 percent physical violence, 5 percent sexual, and 8 percent emotional); in the Visayas, it was 22 percent (6 percent physical, 11 sexual, 5 percent emotional).

While I can’t find violence against women (VAW) crime statistics online for 2020 (the year the pandemic hit), the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) said in December last year that calls and emails to their agency during that period tripled.

PCW Deputy Executive Director for Operations Kristie Balmes said in a Laging Handa briefing that month that while Philippine National Police (PNP) reports of VAW acts for last year had gone down, “ang mga barangay po ay nakakapagsabi na tumaas po ang bilang ng VAW reports na natatanggap nila. [The barangays can say that the number of VAW reports that they received have increased.]

“At ang PCW mismo, meron po kaming VAW referral services, halos naging triple po ang naging dami ng complaints at sumbong.” [And (at) the PCW itself, we have VAW referral services, the complaints have tripled.]

It is understandable that the PNP reported a decrease in VAW cases during the extreme community quarantine (ECQ), because women found it difficult to access the PNP’s services, which were stretched thin at the time as many policemen were put on lockdown implementation and patrol duty.

It was easier for women, many of whom could not leave their homes as lockdown rules permitted only one person per household to go out for food and other supplies, to call or email the PCW and other agencies for help.

Writing for UCANews in October last year, Peter Joseph Calleja cites Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte as having told reporters that from March 17 to May 23 last year, the height of the ECQ, that 602 women, an average of eight per day, were maltreatred or raped across the country. I would say the actual number is much higher as many cases went unreported.

Belmonte added in that same interview last October, the QC women and children’s desk “receives at least 12 complaints of domestic abuse per week” and that before the pandemic, there were around five.

As Vice President Leni Robredo said in her International Women’s Day speech on March 8: “Cases of domestic violence continue to rise. Under the shadow of the pandemic, reproductive health services have been hampered, and lockdowns have trapped survivors at home with their abusers, with little in terms of a lifeline to the outside world.”

For its part, the Commission on Human Rights, as official Gender Ombud of the Philippines, underscores “the importance of ensuring gender-responsive interventions, including survivor-centered responses to gender-based violence,” said CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit in her Women’s Day message.

On the other hand, Popcom has also highlighted the gains the country has made in “championing the cause of women, evidenced by its high worldwide ranking in women empowerment and gender equality,” said the agency’s Undersecretary Juan Antonio Perez III.

“The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index places the Philippines at 16th—the only one in Asia in its Top 20—as the country is performing excellently in closing the gender gap when it comes to economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment,” he added.

However, he also pointed out that “these achievements, however, are counterbalanced by the prevalence of gender bias, as well as incidences of GBV (gender-based violence) -- especially in the time of Covid-19.”

Despite the gains, there is still a long way to go in breaking the patriarchal mindset that normalizes violence by men against wives, daughters, and other women in the home. There is no justification for inflicting harm and abuse on family and household members. None at all.

Philhealth has stated that the P15 billion isn’t missing, just being liquidated. They should release the list of all facilities that received the monies, and address the claims made by Thorsson Keith. *** // FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO

Topics: Jenny Ortuoste , Commission on Population and Development , Popcom , Filipino women , Social Weather Stations survey , violence against women , COVID-19 pandemic
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