‘Gender-based violence still prevalent in Philippines’

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star
�Gender-based violence still prevalent in Philippines�
Student leaders and Akbayan partylist members call for the passage of the Safe Spaces Act at a press briefing in Quezon City yesterday.
Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines may be enjoying a favorable ranking in global gender equality index, but gender-based violence is still prevalent in the country, a health advocacy group said yesterday.

In a statement issued in observance of Women’s Month, Forum for Family Planning and Development president Benjamin de Leon said the World Economic Forum had ranked the Philippines eighth – up from 10th place – among 148 countries worldwide when it comes to gender equality.

The country was also praised for closing 80 percent of its gender gap in areas of educational reach, labor, political empowerment, health and survival.

However, De Leon said the “bright picture belies the grim situation of gender-based violence in the Philippines.”

He said that based on the 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), one in four women has experienced spousal violence. 

The survey also showed that violence is pervasive even before marriage, as 14 percent of girls and women aged 15 to 49 have experienced physical violence since they were 15 years old.

De Leon said children “are not in better situations either,” citing the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC)’s 2018 study on violence against children.

The study showed eight of 10 children and young people have experienced some form of violence in their lifetime, usually occurring at home.

Aside from this, one in five children below 18 has experienced sexual violence while growing up.

“For spousal abuse, the NDHS said the most common perpetrator of physical violence against women is their current or most recent husband or partner,” De Leon said.

On the other hand, the CWC survey showed that in households with parental histories of physical abuse combined with financial stress due to poverty and illegal substance use, the “wrongdoers are both parents, with men more frequently inflicting harm.”

Among girls and boys who experience sexual violence, the common offenders are brothers, fathers or male cousins.

“In Asia, the Philippines is one of the most gender equal countries… (but) it is with deep concern that we in the civil society organizations that work in communities witness a different reality that needs to change,” he said.

De Leon lamented that in many households and communities, violence is part of societal norms and is an acceptable behavior.

“In majority of cases, men as heads and members of families are the ones committing harm on women and children,” he said.

De Leon said even in reproductive health decisions, women are held back by male machismo as their partners tend to pressure them to have more children than they desire.

In this case, he said the burden is placed on women who may suffer poor health from too many pregnancies and may not be able to achieve the family size that they want.

“This month, we have an urgent request to the men. We enjoin the men to be wise and sensitive. We urge them to step up to the needs of their partners because this will benefit them and everyone in their families,” he said.

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