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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Editorial: VAW and social media

IT WAS a disturbing sight -- that scene in what looked like a warehouse where a man mauled a woman worker, all caught on CCTV.

While we do not know the whole story and are only getting it from the post of the young woman, Jessa Mae Canete, a 20-year-old worker at Volga Oil Company in Panacan, Davao City, what we can see from the video is that the man, Ryan Rebucas Ma, is a superior. That is basing it on the body language on the video.

From what we can see, there were five workers sorting packets of something: three women and two men. The man, identified as Ma was standing, apparently scolding them. He was gesturing toward the workers before approaching the woman in yellow, who turned out to be Canete, and continued with his soundless gestures before poking the woman in the face with something.

The woman in return stood up, put up a fight, and was overpowered. The man mauled her. That was obvious. What was obvious too was that those around them were giving just a token gesture of stopping the fight, but no one really dared push or drag Ma away from the woman worker, and no one also dragged the woman to safety. As we said, just token gestures of pacifying what was already a full mauling in progress, thus we can assume that Ma is indeed their superior and the five are just among the lowly workers who stand to lose their jobs if they stand up to him.

There was absolutely no reason for the violence. It was not as if the workers were slacking, they were obviously working, in the way workers work -- their hands busy. Whether their mouths are just as busy is no reason to maul anyone. After all, they are most likely paid by the number of hours their hands are busy.

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) defines violence against women (VAW) as, “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public and private life. Gender-based violence is any violence inflicted on women because of their sex.”

Given the limitation of our laws on violence against women, the incident will most likely fall under Revised Penal Code for physical injuries.

What this incident underlines, however, is that violence against women is not limited to partners and does not necessarily mean sexual in nature. Violence is violence, mauling is violent.

What worked to Canete's favor is social media, and yes, the CCTV footage. Had this happened before, as we suspect many women have suffered similar fates, then all they can do is weep in silence and work on especially if they badly need employment. Then that violent act will just worsen as those who have violent tendencies also have the tendency to step up their aggression against those whom they have already throttled once.

Still, we return to what this incident is telling us. There is violence against women in the workplace that has no sexual insinuations like what our laws protect against. The Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995 covers sexual advances and sexual favors committed by someone superior to the woman in the workplace. The Violence Against Women and Children Act of 1993 protects a "wife, former wife, or against a woman with whom the person has or had a sexual or dating relationship, or with whom he has a common child, or against her child whether legitimate or illegitimate".

Everything else falls under the crimes punishable through the Revised Penal Code. The imbalance between muscle power and ability to protect oneself from physical harm sans sexual undertones has no bearing in this. This underlines something else, our women are not yet sufficiently protected in the work place.

That said, we are glad that the Davao City Police Office has already arrested the aggressor.
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