Violence against women (VAW) is undeniably one of the pervasive social problems that has beset the country for decades. It has adversely affected the physical, psychological, and reproductive health of the victims.
In response, the Philippine government has promulgated laws like the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act, Anti-Rape Law, Safe Spaces Act, and Anti-Trafficking Law, among others. However, despite these laws and related policies, VAW continues to persist in our midst.
The COVID-19 outbreak and the imposition of the Enhanced Community Quarantine put women and girls at a greater risk of experiencing violence. Crisis situations like this pandemic trigger abusive behavior among husbands or partners, and therefore, increase violence in the home. With the quarantine measures, family members are forced to stay home for a long period of time which disrupts both their economic and social activities.
From the data of the Philippine National Police, reported VAW cases from January to April 20 show a decreasing trend. The downward rate could be attributed to the difficulty of VAW victim-survivors to personally report the abuse due to restricted movements in the community and the absence of public transportation. Moreover, it would be doubly hard for the victims as the presence of perpetrators in their dwellings who could easily monitor their actions remain a factor to be considered. With the stricter measures to mitigate the prolonged duration of the pandemic, the existing basic services become less accessible and responsive to the victims’ needs.
During this public health crisis, we take a stand to remain at the forefront of addressing VAW. The member-agencies of the IACVAWC need to ensure that their respective programs and services for the protection and safety of victim-survivors of violence continue to be available and accessible at the national and local government levels, through enhanced and strengthened coordination, for a more effective protective response system.
In principle, despite COVID-19, critical services should be made available anytime for VAW victim-survivors who are in need of assistance.
To that end, I call on all service providers – including police officers, barangay officials, welfare and development officers, and other stakeholders – to undertake measures that will ensure the protection of women against violence.
Let us work together in addressing violence against women amid the ongoing pandemic.
[Sgd.] ROLANDO JOSELITO D. BAUTISTA
Secretary Chair, Inter-Agency Council on Violence Against Women and their Children