Editorial: Rising against injustice

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Sunday, February 16, 2014


LAST Feb. 14, St. Valentines’ Day, lovers were not the only ones on alert.

A police official said they would monitor couples entering pension houses, motels and hotels on this day as some of the women may be victims of prostitution, said Insp. Sheryl Bautista.

The deputy chief of the Regional Anti-human Trafficking Task Force (RAHTTF) Central Visayas was quoted in Davinci S. Maru’s Feb. 11 report in Sun.Star Cebu.

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Last Feb. 14 marked also the second year that women’s groups in 207 countries are observing One Billion Rising (OBR). According to a statement issued by Gabriela Women’s Party, there will be synchronized groups of Filipinos dancing nationwide to stir awareness of and support for women and girls victimized by poverty and injustice.

Gender crimes

The OBR campaign seeks to draw attention to femicide, or crimes committed against women and girls by men because of their gender.

Femicide, or feminicide, takes many forms. According to an online paper by Claire Laurent of the Academic Council on the United Nations System (Acuns), violence against women is systematically carried out by institutions, such as the family and the state, due to the perception that women are less valuable than men.

“In recent years, there has been a noticeable increase in the rates of killings of women,” observed Laurent. The most dominant form of femicide is the abuse and murder of women by their intimate partners.

While women account for more than half of the victims of intimate partner- or family-related homicide, the crimes are “significantly underreported” because violence is accepted by women and menas a “legitimate” aspect of intimate relations or family life.

In these incidents of violence against women, the abuse is repeated over and over until the woman is killed.

Gabriela-Negros officials point out that violence against women and children was on the rise in 2013, compared to the previous year’s record.

According to Sun.Star Bacolod’s Feb. 12 report, the local OBR campaign of Gabriela-Negros will gather organizations fighting against domestic violence, human trafficking and the landlessness afflicting peasant women and families.

Genderless

However, according to officials of the RAHTTF Central Visayas, women and children are not the only victims of violence.

Sun.Star Cebu reported that gays are also targets of human trafficking. “Anybody can be a victim,” said Bautista.

During their five years of operation, the RAHTTF Central Visayas has rescued 582 victims, including 62 minors, from suspected human traffickers.

While the rescued minors told the police that they didn’t know they were going into the flesh trade, they also admitted they went with a recruiter to meet and dine with foreigners because of peer pressure and desire for material acquisitions.

Bautista said those who voluntarily went with recruiters (who often were their neighbors) and knew what they were doing are still considered as victims. Those who are rescued undergo counseling and evaluation with social workers.

While many in society judge and blame victims, this intolerance manifests the institutionalized violence against victims, who are stereotyped as being only
“genuine” victims if they are naïve and coerced into crimes or exploited.

The OBR campaign seeks to educate the public to reject this discrimination of women and other victims, as well as demands the state’s accountability to rescue and protect victims and combat violence.

Aside from implementing laws and promoting policies that are gender-sensitive, the state must facilitate the victims’ access to justice.

There has to be support for individuals and families victimized by violence. In many cases, victims cannot sustain the long search for justice from lack of resources, fear of reprisal and powerlessness in the face of powerful individuals or syndicates that violate their rights with impunity.

Given that violence against women and other victims are embedded in traditions and perceptions, not just institutions, the Acuns paper recommends that femicide can be countered through education given at the grassroots. When girls and boys, women and men are aware of their rights, the spiraling cycle of victimization may fade into nothing.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 17, 2014.

Opinion

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