Sunday, August 01, 2021

Covid-19 affects government response to VAW cases

SunStar File

CASES of violence against women (VAW) in Central Visayas decreased by 42 percent, from 214 cases in 2019 to 124 in 2020, according to the records of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Region VII.

The decrease is due to the difficulty in accepting referrals and reaching out to VAW victims when localized lockdowns were imposed during the quarantine across the region, said DSWD 7.

The agency also said that the National Government has tapped many DSWD 7 personnel to help in the implementation of programs and delivery of services focused on easing the effects of the coronavirus 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, such as the Social Amelioration Program, pushing the program for VAW to the backseat.

Effects of quarantine

The decrease is contrary to what DSWD 7 was expecting. According to Lilibeth Cabiara, DSWD 7’s women’s sector focal person, the quarantine has provided challenges for families, such as unemployment, decreased alternatives for income, and staying at home cooped up for a long period, increasing the possibilities and factors for women to experience violence.

Due to the quarantine, cases of VAW in 2020 were reported through the help of local social workers and referrals from various agencies, such as the Women and Children Protection Desk of the Philippine National Police.

In 2020, the VAW cases included 33 cases of sexual abuse (rape, incest, and acts of lasciviousness), 24 cases of sexual exploitation (human trafficking, prostitution, pornography, cyber-pornography, and child labor), 11 cases of physical abuse, and 10 cases of psychological and emotional abuse.

Some 41 dependents of these victims or their children and five are persons with disabilities (PWD) are temporarily sheltered at DSWD 7’s Regional Haven for Women and Girls.

Other challenges

The Regional Haven for Women is a nationwide program of DSWD, which caters to the needs of women and girls who need case management, case referral, psycho-social intervention, counseling, temporary shelter, rehabilitation, financial support, and livelihood assistance, among others.

Cabiara said that human resource is one of the biggest challenges in addressing VAW in 2020, especially when their law enforcement partners have been fully tapped to guard checkpoint areas.

“It is also a challenge for the Regional Haven to accept new clients since the Department of Health has set guidelines for swab testing, therefore, we cannot accept clients who have not undergone swab testing,” she said.

She also said that the temporary closing of shelters, counseling centers, schools, and parishes that are partners with the Regional Haven also made the operation of the program and delivery of basic services to clients difficult. (Jyle Rachelle Aguilar, St. Theresa’s College-Cebu Corporate Communication student)


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