Groups condemn attacks against women human rights defenders

Artemio Dumlao - Philstar.com
Groups condemn attacks against women human rights defenders
Groups said 33 women human rights defenders have been killed under the Duterte administration.
Karapatan, released

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — The Philippines is a dangerous place for women and for woman human rights defenders, rights group Karapatan said on Thursday, International Women Human Rights Defenders' Day.

The situation has gotten worse because the Duterte government bent on protecting the foremost violators of women's rights – the military and the police, said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.
Palabay criticized the government, claiming that it "coddles rapists and murderers, headed by a leader who spouts demeaning statements against women and actively orders his mercenaries to act with the same disrespect and lack of regard for women’s rights."

Duterte is known for making controversial statements, including some that are seen to be offensive to or derogatory of women. His defenders have pointed to policies in Davao City meant to protect women—for example, pageant contestants are not allowed to wear bikinis—as proof that he cares about women.

Members of various organizations led by Karapatan, women rights advocacy group Gabriela and Tanggol Bayi held a protest and cultural action in front of the Camp Aguinaldo, the main headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, calling for an end to continuing attacks against women human rights defenders.

Palabay said that, as of September 2018, there have already been 33 WHRDs killed under the Duterte administration while another 45 are in jail on what she said were trumped-up charges.

Among the women human rights defenders killed are Karapatan Visayas coordinator Elisa Badayos, peasant advocates Jean Plabial, Teresita Pesadilla, and Haide Flores, and Moro and women’s rights activist Mariam Acob.

Palabay also called for the immediate release of women defenders she said were jailed for their advocacies, including Lumad volunteer teacher Jolita Tolino, youth activist Myles Albasin, development worker Rita Espinoza, and women rights defender Hedda Calderon.

Gerifel Cerillo, Tanggol Bayi coordinator, said that "these attacks are far from isolated. They are fueled by a patriarchal and militarist society that flaunts the humiliation of women as a décor to toxic machismo and thus, an inevitable outcome of State terrorism."

Cerillo further claimed that “barbaric schemes such as sex-for-freedom or 'palit-puri' perpetrated by policemen, who were also implementors of the government's drug war, remain a constant and grim reminder of how gender-based violence stem from government policies."

She said that the government's campaign agains drugs "and the government's counterinsurgency campaign have provided explicit licenses to uniformed criminals to violate women's rights."

Karapatan and Tanggol Bayi meanwhile urged the passage of the Human Rights Defenders' Bill, which accordingly aims to create a conducive environment for human rights advocacy, giving special attention to gender-based forms of violence.

"As we commemorate the International Women Human Rights Defenders' Day, we remember our sisters who struggled alongside us. They fought fiercely and with profound courage, yet always with humility and compassion," said Palabay.

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