One billion rising

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By Mags Z. Maglana

The Point Being

Saturday, February 15, 2014


CHANCES are Friday’s fare in traditional and social media included accounts of the horrendous traffic situation in key Philippine cities, difficulties in getting seats in restaurants and entertainment places, the ridiculous cost of roses and other flowers, and the spike in hotel bookings – all occurring largely because of the confluence of three events. Valentine's Day 2014. On a payday. And on a Friday.

But hopefully, there would be more news and commentary about how women, men and children from all over the country came together to join the international campaign One Billion Rising for Justice, more known as One Billion Rising.

The campaign encouraged women survivors of violence, their communities and advocates to mass outside places where women ought to be able to expect justice but often do not.

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But more than just massing up, the One Billion Rising call this year was to "rise, release, dance and demand justice" because, as the campaign organizers put it, "we cannot end violence against women without looking at the intersection of poverty, racism, war, the plunder of the environment, capitalism, imperialism, and patriarchy.”

Impunity lives at the heart of these interlocking forces."

As many of us now know, the campaign identity was based on the United Nations analysis that one in three women in our world will be subjected to sexual and physical violence within her lifetime.

This high figure translates to one billion women harmed in a world with a population of seven million; hence the call for one billion women and men who will rise up to challenge global violence against women.

One Billion Rising invites people to envision justice for survivors of gender violence in their area. In the Philippines, our imagination entails addressing but also going beyond locating violence against women in intimate contexts, ensuring that State accountability is upheld.

The Center for Women's Rights (CWR) reports that there are 37 laws, executive orders and resolutions in the country that are directed at protecting women and advancing their rights. Nevertheless, Filipinas do get violated.

CWR, in its March 2013 Karahasan Laban sa Kababaihan at Bata report, listed seven forms of violence against women and children in the country--rape and incest, sexual harassment, domestic violence, sex trafficking and prostitution, lowly paid and vulnerable livelihood, lack of/weak access to medical and other social services, and repressive acts of the State.

Accounts of rape are jarring enough as they are, but more so when agents of the State who are supposed to protect citizens are involved.

The same CWR report noted 10 incidents of rape/sexual assault in 2012 where the alleged perpetrators were from the military and police; a number of the victims were in their teens.

In the poem "Bread and Roses," we are reminded that "Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;/ Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!" And so in the face of violence, we dare dance, we must dance.

One billion women, men and children rising last Feb. 14 are one billion women, men and children radiant with justice against the dark and gray. --From Sun.Star Davao

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 16, 2014.

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