The sad truth is, we hold a day to recognize violence against women because it is so prevalent around the globe. In some places, it’s even recognized as an epidemic. Here in the Philippines, we’re not immune to this grim reality. Just the past weeks, we’ve been subjected to alarming news that prove this, like the alleged rape within the walls of a revered university. And there are still many more that go unreported.
Asian Development Bank notes that, “Global survey conducted by the World Health Organization estimated that, on average, 1 in 3 women in the Asia and Pacific region have experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner. Moreover, in some countries, up to 80 2018 percent of women report experiencing some form of violence in their lifetime.” As if these numbers aren’t overwhelming enough the institution also highlights that, “According to a UN Women’s report, only one percent of females who experienced forced sexual intercourse sought professional help.”
This was one of the major issues touched by the discussion initiated by ADB to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Guest speaker, founding Chair of the Child Justice League in the Philippines Ms. Katrina Legarda, cleared that while many attribute the high number of unreported crimes to people’s lack of awareness or education, the problem actually goes deeper than that: Culture. In the Philippines at least, she attested that illiteracy isn’t our main enemy, but rather, the prevailing culture of silence. The alleged rape victim in Ateneo—one of the top universities in the country—who chose to anonymously post her experience online supports this claim.
Moreover, it was also found out that incest rape tops the type of cases here in the country. In turn, victims suffer silently because they do not want the offender to go to prison, since our culture calls for familial loyalty.
Discussions at the event also highlighted the importance of laws but especially, access to these laws by women and girls. Ms. Katrina claims that our country actually have progressive laws when it comes to protecting women. Unfortunately, aside from them choosing not to report, the problem is that women and children have limited or no means to legal aids.
“Today’s forum underscores the widespread nature of the problem and the importance and urgency of needed reforms to laws and mindsets,” ADB General Counsel Mr. Christopher Stephens said at the event.
But to merely focus on the problem is futile. We all must do our part to ensure a future that no longer treats this problem as a common affair. We can all be proactive in this and it can start in little things. Breaking the culture that perpetuates rape and violence can be done by the mere act of being conscious of the way we speak, for one. We all are responsible for our current sad state but we’re also responsible for a safer future.
Art by Marian Hukom
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