THE news about the two female senators (Risa Hontiveros and Pia Cayetano) filing their versions of divorce lead me to the idea of women empowerment and the concept of gender equality. Perhaps, the next picture that comes to our mind upon hearing the term “divorce” is a battered wife. After all, domestic violence seems to be the most common cause of opting separation from partners.
Men are stereotypically seen as the actor of violence and abuse. The statement “men are all the same” seems to be regarded as a fact, that in spite of individual differences, men will have the tendency to abuse women or become violent one way or another, sooner or later.
In the Philippine context, there is Republic Act (RA) 9262 that protects women from domestic violence. It includes physical, sexual, psychological, and even economic abuse. On the other hand, the Philippine laws failed to consider the reality that in spite of our patriarchal society, there is no denying that men can also be victims of these kinds of abuses by the opposite gender.
Under the protection of RA 9262 a man cannot hit a woman. A man cannot intimidate or verbally abuse a woman. A man cannot deprive a woman the custody of their child. A man is prohibited to control a woman’s money.
Unfortunately, there is no law that protects a man from possible abuses of a woman. A woman can hit him, verbally abuse him and deprive him of the custody of their child.
And though it’s not a big issue in our culture, the woman is expected to control man’s money. In other words, a woman may abuse her protection without any sanction.
According to lawyer Joram Deogracias, a professor from the University of San Carlos, “Our law presumes men can’t be physically and emotionally abused.” This is a common notion in our society. A belief that men are stronger than women, men are abusive in nature and never the other way around.
If there are male victims of domestic violence, why are they undocumented?
The answer might be another question: Among the male community, who would share that he is abused by a woman? Perhaps no one. No man would let anyone know that he is a victim in order to maintain his macho image. It would be adding insult to injury—an insult to his masculinity.
I often see posts and memes that are directly or indirectly prejudicial against men; things that are discriminatory not just to women but to men, as if everyone should be constantly reminded of the presumptuous generalities, stereotyping and of the violent roles attached to this gender. Personally, I think it is a denigration of men. However, if it should be taken seriously it would turn into a mockery to the masculinity of a man.
Lawyer Diogracias said, “Our present laws favor women and afford them more protection. However, it also shows the patriarchal structure of the Filipino society and culture and may actually be a form of discrimination as it presents a double standard.”
For us men, fighting for this right to gender equality sounds ludicrous. Filing a police blotter against a woman is as insulting as being abused by a woman. It is like choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea.
In spite of the image of dominance and strength of the male gender, man feels and thinks. Men are not exempted from being victims of domestic violence.
In this sense, I guess we are still far from the so called gender equality.