Gender and Development

Violence against Women

Violence against women (VAW) appears as one of the country’s pervasive social problems. According to the 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority, one in four Filipino women age 15-49 has experienced physical, emotional or sexual violence by their husband or partner. It is indeed alarming that despite efforts to address the concern, VAW persists.

VAW is deemed to be closely linked with the unequal power relation between women and men otherwise known as “gender based violence.” Societal norms and traditions dictate people to think that men are the leaders, pursuers, and providers, and take on the dominant roles in society while women are the nurturers, men’s companions and supporters, and take on the subordinate roles in society. This perception leads men to gain more power over women. Hence, VAW becomes a form of men’s expression of control over women to retain power.

As defined by the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993), VAW is “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.”

According to Republic Act 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004, VAW is “any act or a series of acts committed by any person against a woman who is his 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, with or without the family abode, which result in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, psychological harm or suffering, or economic abuse including threats of such acts, battery, assault, coercion, harassment or arbitrary deprivation of liberty.”

VAW includes, but not limited to, the following acts:
• Physical violence or the act that includes bodily or physical harm
• Sexual violence or the act that is sexual in nature, committed against a woman or her child
• Psychological violence or the act or omission that causes or likely to cause mental or emotional suffering of the victim
• Economic abuse or the act that makes or attempts to make a woman financially dependent

In the Philippines, some realities that contribute to the vulnerability of Filipino women to VAW are being accused as “naggers” or neglectful of their duties as wife that is why they are being beaten by their spouses, or being raped due to her “flirtatious” ways; in some instances, filing for a sexual harassment is interpreted by her employer as being malicious on the appreciation of her good looks.

Moreover, an even greater problem is the lack of concrete information to show the extent of VAW in the country as many cases of violence against women often go unreported due to women victims’ “culture of silence.” Many of the victims are ashamed to relate their experiences while others tend to dismiss their ordeal as a result of their lack of faith in the country’s justice system caused by frustrations over the lack of results in filing complaints.

Several government mechanisms have already been put in place to address VAW. Non-government organizations also take part in this crusade. It is uncertain when this trend will totally diminish in the Philippine setting, but as long as current efforts to fight VAW are sustained, hope could be set high.