Women on the scale, 2

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Monday, March 31, 2014


THE celebration of International Women’s Month brings to light a checkered record.

Just as women judges and women lawyers are on a steady rise, there is also an increase of women in the government bureaucracy. The Civil Service Commission reports that, particularly for the technical or second-level positions, women make up the majority (59 percent) of the bureaucracy.

The men, on the other hand, are likely to be clerks or managers/executives.
On the very delicate matter of violence against women, the 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) collected information on spousal violence among women aged 15 to 49.

Spousal violence spreads like a huge umbrella, covering physical, sexual, emotional and economic. And the results are startling.

For every five women aged 15-49, one has experienced physical violence since age 15.

Over one-third of separated or widowed women suffered the same experience, implying that domestic violence could be the reason for separation or annulment.

Perhaps my parents knew in their time about battered wives among their friends, but kept these as closely guarded secrets. That’s why I was surprised when after the wedding ceremony forty-two years ago, I heard my mother tell her son-in-law, “Lani can be headstrong at times and could test your patience. Just return her to us, but don’t dare hit her.”

I heard myself saying the same lines to my sons-in-law when my two daughters got married. I, too, have had friends with their sad stories of abusive husbands or even boyfriends.

To this day, I could never understand why they held on. There is truth to the saying, “Staying in a situation where you’re unappreciated isn’t called loyalty; it’s breaking your own heart.”

One woman did not just break her heart; her husband broke her arm as well. So, when a disgruntled employee viciously stabbed him to death, the wife’s friends quietly whispered to each other, “The Lord’s mercy has finally come to ______ (name withheld). She’s finally free.”

In some families, the fathers are more outspoken. One such father, upon hearing his newly married daughter getting verbally abused by her husband, advised her, “You know, physical abuse always starts with verbal abuse. I don’t want to see that happening.”

Soon after, the couple separated.

A wise move, I would say, especially because studies have shown that abusive husbands lessen their violence on their wives only when the men grow older, or when their education or wealth increases.

By that time, however, the wives/girlfriends might already have been reduced to a pulp, if their faces and bodies survive the ordeals at all.

Sometimes, though, physical injuries can at first remain hidden, such as cuts, bruises or aches. Still, battered wives have suffered eye injuries, sprains, dislocations or burns.

But the worst pains cut deep. For every five women, three who experienced physical or sexual violence underwent psychological consequences like depression, anxiety and anger.

Other women would not breathe a word about spousal violence to their friends, and especially their family. The saddest lies are those they tell themselves. Unless interventions are timely, some even commit suicide.

(lelani.echaves@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 01, 2014.

Opinion

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