Philippines urged to combat escalating domestic violence cases amid virus lockdowns

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Philippines urged to combat escalating domestic violence cases amid virus lockdowns
Filipinos who availed general amnesty granted by the Kuwaiti government are pictured gathering at the Kuwait International Airport Terminal 4, on April 3, 2020 on their home to Manila amid the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
AFP / Yasser Al-Zayyat

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights called for measures to address the escalation of domestic violence incidents linked to the lockdowns imposed by the government to stem the spread of the new coronavirus in the country.

In a statement Monday, the CHR said quarantine measures make it harder for victims of gender-based violence to go out of their homes and seek help.

“Women and children who experience abuse are trapped inside their homes with their abusers and have nowhere to go. Most of these women are not able to seek help because they fear being overheard by their abusive partners or are stopped from leaving home,” lawyer Jacqueline De Guia, CHR spokesperson, said.

The main island of Luzon entered its fourth week under the enhanced community quarantine. The lockdown that has restricted the movement of millions and shuttered schools and businesses is likely to be extended but no final decision has been reached yet.

Uncertainty about the situation, restricted movement and financial constraints often lead to psychological and mental exhaustion within the household. CHR said these embolden perpetrators to assert coercive control over their partners and children, which could lead to physical, psychological and sexual abuse.

The commission urged the government to undertake measures combating domestic violence and providing protection for the rights of women and children.

It also called on the government to ensure that victims of abuses have access to legal aid such as restraining orders even during crisis, to provide shelters and financial aid for those who want to leave their houses and to give medical and psychological care through helpline services.

“Domestic abuse is an abhorrent crime. And under the coronavirus regime, leaving violent relations is far more difficult and dangerous. The disease already poses a particularly grave challenge and women and children do not deserve to suffer further, not especially in their homes,” De Guia said.

Roles of barangays, law enforcement agencies

Barangays must establish help desks that will monitor cases of child abuse and violence against women and must coordinate with social workers, health officials and protection units to give intervention and aid to victims, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said in a release Monday.

He also urged the National Bureau of Investigations’ Violence against Women and Children Desk and the Philippine National Police’s Women and Children Protection Center to be vigilant and accessible.

At least one woman or child is abused every 10 minutes in the Philippines, the Center for Women’s Resources said in its recent report.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres on Monday also urged all governments to make the prevention and redress of violence against women a key part of their national response plans for COVID-19.

He called for setting up emergency warning systems in groceries and pharmacies and creating safe ways for women to seek support “without alerting their abusers.”

“Women’s rights and freedoms are essential to strong, resilient societies. Together, we can and must prevent violence everywhere, from war zones to people’s homes, as we work to beat COVID-19,” Guterres said.

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