GWP’s statement on the Int’l day for the elimination of violence against women

Nov. 25, 2012

News Release
25 November 2012

Amid worsening poverty and militarization of communities, violence against women cases in the Davao Region soar – Gabriela Women’s Party Southern Mindanao

DAVAO CITY — Women’s group Gabriela Women’s Party in Southern Mindanao said that cases of violence against women in the region are on the rise as poverty and intensified militarization of communities remain.

“The statistics indicate that violence against women not only persists until today, it is on the rise. This is because the social problems that cause VAW and all forms of gender violence have not been addressed,” explained Mary Ann Sapar, Spokesperson for GWP Southern Mindanao.

Southern Mindanao has the most number of reported cases of domestic violence in the entire country, claiming 34% of total national VAW incidence. Based on findings of Davao City-based Women Studies and Resource Center (WSRC), since the 2004 passage of the Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004, VAWC cases reported have been on the rise, from only 184 cases in 2004 to 1,450 in 2011. “In 2012, there are 1,391 cases reported covering the months January to October. This translates to 139 cases per month, 5 cases per day, or 1 case of domestic violence reported every 5 hours.”

Aside from domestic violence which is the most prevalent form of abuse reported, rape and sexual harassment cases continue. There is an average of 2-3 rape cases a day reported anywhere in the country for the year 2011.

Poverty makes women prone to violence

The group believes that the surge in VAW cases reflect the still unchanged feudal and patriarchal  system which promotes the mentality that women are objects or property of men and that they occupy a lower tier in society. Moreover, the worsening economic crisis is considered to drive the increasing incidence in VAW cases.

“VAW hurts women of all social classes but it is the poor women who are most vulnerable to violence.  Due to poverty, poor women are also less likely to leave abusive relationships because of fear that they will not be able to feed their families,” Sapar added.

“As the unemployment rate escalates and contractualization forces many women off the employment ladder, household budgets are drained and women are driven by poverty to make ends meet. They fall victim to unscrupulous pimps, sex traffickers, and illegal recruiters. Many women are forced into prostitution because of economic need,” Sapar explained.

There are around 4,000 women and children in prostitution in Davao City, 54 cases of sex trafficking recorded from January to September, of which nearly all were minors, 13 to 17 years of age.

Militarization adds to gender violence

The women’s group also called to task the military for refusing to pull out troops in population centers in the region, saying that militarization exacerbates human rights violations experienced in these areas. The group considers militarization and state violence one of the “seven deadly sins against women.”

“Aside from having the most number of reported VAWC cases in the country, Southern Mindanao is also the most militarized region, with 3 divisions and 21 military battalions. We have been adamant about telling the military to leave Paquibato and other civilian communities  because most importantly, it is a violation of international humanitarian law, and secondly, it makes women and children prone to abuses like rape, sexual abuse, harassment by the military, and extrajudicial killing” Sapar added.

Through the Aquino administration’s Oplan Bayanihan counter-insurgency program, women in the region are put at-risk for gender violence and human rights violations.  Cases documented by Gabriela include the rape of a minor (16 yrs) by one Capt. Danilo Lalin in Mankayan, Benguet, gang rape of a 17 year-old girl by 3 members of the 16th IB in Rizal identified as OFC Alexander O. Barzaga, PFC Ronnie Q. Castro and PVT Rocky H. Domingo, and the rape of a 13 year-old girl by her CAFGU uncle. Since 2001, 35 of the victims of extrajudicial killings in the country were women.

Oplan Bayanihan in Southern Mindanao has given the military license to threaten women and children as a counterinsurgency and counterintelligence strategy. Wives and children of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels have been subjected to military harassment in Paquibato in order to coerce them into providing information about their relatives’ whereabouts and activities. One wife, only three days out of labor, suffered massive bleeding after being interrogated and toted with long firearms by the military inside their hut.

“The longer the military stays in our communities, the more susceptible our women and children are to violence. We reiterate our call for the soldiers to remove themselves from our communities,” insisted Sapar.

“Violence against women remains a social reality that demands our outrage and action. 1 in 3 women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. Until now, violence against women remains a matter of life and death.VAW must be eliminated because women cannot wait,” Sapar concluded.

Gabriela Women’s Party will be launching “Hayhayan sa Kababayen-an Batuk sa Kapintas ug Kalisud” on Monday, November 26, 2012, 12noon at Freedom Park Davao City in commemoration of November 25 IDEVAW. They will be hanging old shirts with signs to symbolize their struggle against “dirty laundry” composed of “seven deadly sins against women”. The “hayhayan” will reiterate that violence against women is a public crime and should be spoken out against instead of being kept private. The group will march afterwards to Rizal Park where they will join other women’s groups in a collective launch of the 18 Days Campaign to End Violence Against Women in Davao City

For Reference:
Mary Ann Sapar
Gabriela Women’s Party Southern Mindanao
Mobile No.: 0946-189-3168

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