‘One woman or child is raped every 53 minutes’

Rhodina Villanueva - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Every 53 minutes, a woman or a child is raped, with seven in 10 victims of rape being children. Every 16 minutes, a woman is battered.

This is the plight of women and children in the country, according to a study by the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR), a research and training institution for women.

The study also found that victims are getting younger and the numbers are rising.

Based on CWR’s estimate, the number of recorded rape cases increased by 92 percent from 5,132 in 2010 to 9,875 in 2014. Violations of the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act escalated by 200 percent from year 2010 to 2014.

“Despite more than 37 laws, executive and administrative orders to protect women and children, the victims of violence are getting younger and the abusers are becoming bolder and harsher,” CWR executive director Jojo Guan said.

According to Guan, the increase of violence against women and children occurred because the perpetrators know that they could get away with the crime.

For instance, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that compared to the several thousands rape cases, only 7,416 were in jail in December 2012. Even fewer of these cases reached conviction.

“Worse, a culture of impunity prevailed in the crimes committed by state authorities,” Guan added.

Data from the human rights group Karapatan showed that from June 2010 to November 2015, there were 10 reported cases of military rape. The usual victims were children and indigenous women.

Among these cases were that of a 21-year-old woman in Aroroy, Masbate in 2010, the case of two teenage girls from Mankayan, Benguet in 2012, and the case of a young Lumad from Talaingod, Davao in 2015.

“Not a single soldier was charged and penalized for these brutal acts,” Guan said.

Guan explained that the proliferation of violence is caused by an existing culture that promotes exploitation, oppression and subjugation of women. “It is a culture where the powerful dominates the powerless. The powerful controls the economic and political setting. Such domination is translated in the treatment of women, especially those who belong to the marginalized sector.”

“In the coming elections, women challenge the aspiring candidates to look into the abuses and the culture of impunity. Women want to choose leaders who have the political will to punish the perpetrators so that the victims will get the justice they deserve. Women also demand to scrap the policies and programs that predispose them to different forms of violence,” Guan added.

Leni plans to revisit annulment procedure

Liberal Party vice presidential candidate Leni Robredo wants to revisit procedures in annulment of marriage in the country to make the process more accessible for women, especially the poor and battered ones.

Under Article 36 of the Family Code of the Philippines, “psychological incapacity” is the only ground allowed by law for a marriage to be annulled.

 For it to be proven, Robredo said a couple must undergo psychological tests that usually costs around P100,000.

“What if the poor and battered wife has no money to pay for psychological tests? What will happen is that she’s forced to live with her husband who will continue to abuse her,” said Robredo, a free legal aid lawyer for battered women before becoming a representative of the 3rd District of Camarines Sur.

“Even if she’s able to get a pro bono lawyer, her case won’t progress if she can’t submit a psychological report to the court,” she added.

She said the psychological incapacity requirement must be studied extensively to make annulment of marriage more accessible to vulnerable women. If the requirement is eased, it would greatly benefit battered women who cannot escape the abuses of their husbands.

She said she has seen so many abused and battered women in the course of her work “who cannot escape the chains of marriage because of the extremely tight requirements of the law.”

Robredo co-authored House Bill 2854 seeking to include violence against spouses and their children as additional ground to annul marriage. – With Paolo Romero

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