“Dance is itself an act of protest. It commands movement, not stillness. We cannot be still while women and girls are being raped, beaten, or hurt in any way. Every person dancing and rising with us on Valentine’s Day is registering collective rage at the violence inflicted on women and at the same time committing to action against it.” – Mary Ann Sapar, GWP-Southern Mindanao spokesperson
By DANILDA L. FUSILERO
KIDAPAWAN CITY, Cotabato, Philippines – Thousands have sealed their participation in the global campaign ‘One Billion Rising’ (OBR), a dance protest to call for an end on violence against women and girl children in all forms.
“Usa kini ka panawagan para ipakita ang pursigidong paningkamot nga putlon na ang kulturang pagpang-abuso sa kababayen-an (This is a global call to show our persevered efforts to end the culture of abuse against women),” Marynil Garcia, Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) coordinator here, told davaotoday.com.
She said some 500 women, men and youth from the city communities, schools and various women organizations are expected to join the OBR at the city plaza this city, 3 PM on February 14.
GWP will be joined by the Network of Women in Kidapawan, Gabriela Youth chapters, provincial chapter of the Family Planning Organization of the Phil. (FPOP), representatives from the provincial and city local government unit-based gender coordinating councils, as well as students from the three private colleges and one public elementary school.
Women issues like the undocumented but continuing prevalence of domestic violence, rape and sexual harassments, limited opportunities to be proportionately represented in the community and government’s decision-making structures, economic incapacitation and the absence of operational support system for abused women and children are expected to be highlighted in the event.
Former Gabriela provincial chairperson and now Makabayan Coalition candidate Ruby Padilla-Sison said that though many are undocumented, issues ranging from physical, emotional, economic, cultural violence on women truly exist.
“We are registering our solid and unified calls to put an end of the continuing violence against women and children,” Sison said as she scored the Aquino government over its apparent apathy in installing a functional support system for women and children survivors (of violence).
“What we get from our respective LGUs is just a penny of concern. Ironically, this has been a practice even after the Magna Carta for Women and other related laws were enacted,” Sison noted.
She said that the Gender and Development funds were being re-aligned to local debt payments, if not for other purposes like small infrastructure projects.
Professor Vilma Gonzales of the Network of Women said that across the province domestic violence, marital rape and physical battering of women, among others still prevailed, adding that “for fear of losing financial support from their husbands, cultural barriers, lack of knowledge on women rights, most of the survivors opted to be silent.”
FPOP provincial chapter program manager Hermie Escalante, on the other hand, said that OBR could be a venue to lobby LGUs to allocate funds for violence against women and children (VAWC) cases.
“It’s a government mandate to protect women. Every LGU should provide VAWC survivors services like legal, medical, economic, psycho-social therapy and alternative shelter,” Escalante said added.
Domestic violence in the Philippines, according to GWP, occurs every 37 minutes while one of three women in the world gets beaten or raped in her lifetime.
In Davao City for instance, there are five cases of domestic violence reported daily, according to GWP-Southern Mindanao spokesperson Mary Ann Sapar.
Sapar said that about 2,000 will join the OBR in Davao City which will be held 4 PM at the Rizal Park.
“We also rise against the violence of poverty. Poverty coerces women into prostitution, sex trafficking, and white slavery. The lack of jobs forces the migration of scores of our women who are rendered vulnerable to abuse while working abroad,”Sapar said in a statement.
The OBR is a simultaneous creative form of protest with a uniform dance choreography to the beat of “Isang Bilyong Babae ang Babangon” composed by former Miss Saigon Monique Wilson’s New Voice Company. The global campaign is headed by award-winning playwright Eve Ensler.
“Dance is itself an act of protest. It commands movement, not stillness. We cannot be still while women and girls are being raped, beaten, or hurt in any way. Every person dancing and rising with us on Valentine’s Day is registering collective rage at the violence inflicted on women and at the same time committing to action against it,” Sapar said.
Meanwhile, in Northern Mindanao region, more than a thousand women’s rights activists, Sendong survivors, women grassroots organizations and support groups will join the OBR in Cagayan de oro, Malaybalay, Iligan and Gingoog cities.
In a statement, Rhodora Bulosan of the Gabriela Women’s Party-NMR said there are an estimated 500,000 victims of prostitution in the Philippines, and 100,000 of them are below 18 years old. She added that in the streets of Cagayan de Oro City, for instance, there’s an increase in the number of the so-called Vitamin C (girls aged trese, kinse, etc) and Vitamin DC (desisais, syete and otso) trade.
Bulosan said that one child is battered every hour and 20 minutes while a woman or child is harassed every four hours.
“Even though laws were enacted to protect the rights and welfare of women and children, such as RA 9262 or the Anti-Violence against women and their children act, these remain inept as serious violations continue,” Bulosan lamented.
VAW in the form of economic deprivation or political persecution, the GWP-NMR said, has affected more than 60 percent of the Filipino women. Extreme poverty brought about by rural landlessness, labor exploitation, unemployment and the general lack of opportunities in the region, GWP-NMR added, also pushed women further into the margins as it opens the door for grave rights abuses and exploitation in the form of prostitution.
“No woman in their right mind would sell their flesh just because they cherish the act of sex more than their dignity. The extreme desperation wrought by poverty forced these women into prostitution.” Bulosan said. She added that the first step to end women exploitation is to provide a permanent solution to poverty by taking the necessary steps to provide permanent and stable sources of income. (With reports from Marilou Aguirre-Tuburan/davaotoday.com)