Friday, August 06, 2021

Editorial: Losing hold

Editorial Cartoon by John Gilbert Manantan

THE number of recorded cases of violence against women (VAW) in Central Visayas has decreased from 214 in 2019 to 124 in 2020, says the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) 7.

But this is fiction.

In fact, it is anything other than good news. Twice as bad, actually: one, world figures conclude of realities that say otherwise; two, the pandemic left our government agencies blind as to the actual figures.

DSWD’s women’s sector focal person Lilibeth Cabiara said the figures are contrary to what they expected. The quarantine displaced workers and left families with fewer options, leaving them cooped up for a long period, and thus the possibility of domestic violence especially on women.

The DSWD 7 said 2020 left a dearth of referrals amidst the local lockdowns and a concentration of government’s social welfare resources and efforts have been focused on addressing the impact of the health crisis.

The agency said it has been playing key role in the implementation of programs and basic services delivery, such as the Social Amelioration Program. The situation leaves cases of VAW in the backseat.

And, yet, in 2020, the cases that came via reports from local social workers and referrals from agencies such as the Women and Child Protection Desk of the Philippine National Police, 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 of these cases are currently sheltered at the DSWD’s Regional Haven for Women and Girls, a facility that assists in case management, case referral, psychosocial intervention, counseling, temporary shelter, rehabilitation, financial support and livelihood assistance.

And yet, despite the availability of the service, the protocols have been difficult for the potential cases.

“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,” Cabiara said.

All these challenges, unfortunately, leave women and girls who are victims of abuse with fewer choices in this pandemic, at a time when they need it the most. And, yet, these limitations that our agencies admit to have experienced puts everyone almost in a position of helplessness despite the urgency and scale of trauma victims have to suffer.


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