Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has rallied Filipino women to create a stronger bond to fight and eliminate all forms of violence against women, which has even worsened during the lockdowns when help desks have been shut down and quarantine has made reporting more burdensome.
De Lima, a staunch defender of women rights and human rights, said all attacks against women – whether as a physical assault by a partner, or as a late night rambling of a man in power against a hardworking Vice-President – should be called out and condemned, and never be tolerated.
“We have come a long way from that dark period in history when women were deprived of their right to express themselves and become part of the decision-making process, the freedom to think and speak, the liberty to be something more than just a damsel in distress waiting to be saved,” she said.
“However, these victories have been overshadowed by the continued abuses perpetrated against women. Legislation and jurisprudence have both been ravished by the slights against women,” she added.
De Lima further stated that while “violence against women is as debilitating and catastrophic as a virus,” women have already learned through experience that “a virus has to be ripped off root and stem.”
De Lima’s solidarity message for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (VAW) was read by Jean Enriquez, Executive Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific (CATW-AP), last Nov. 25 at the Commission on Human Rights.
Citing a 2017 Philippine National Demographic and Health survey, De Lima noted that with every four Filipinas aged 15-49, one has experienced physical, emotional or sexual abuse by their partner or husband.
The lady Senator said that abuse, however, has many faces and that the perpetrators have many ammunitions at their disposal – whether as domestic violence, as sex trafficking and prostitution, as sexual harassment, as oppression in employment based on sex, or as political repression aggravated by gender discrimination.
“They all amount to violence that must be eradicated,” stressed De Lima, who was recognized by Amnesty International as one of the notable Women Human Rights Defenders Under Threat in 2017.
De Lima, a former justice secretary, said women should tell the world that they cannot be silenced even when the men in power red tag them when they could no longer be contained, and not even amid threats of reprisal when they speak truth to power.
“And so today, we begin with defying the order to just keep quiet and cross our legs – today we will rise up and scream so that we can fight for our rights and freedoms. And then we take every opportunity to speak of the horrors that many women still have to endure,” she said.
“And finally, we bond together to combat any and all forms of violence. No more attempt to emasculate our power will ever succeed again. Not while you and I remain on guard – like warriors banded together no longer shackled, no longer beaten, no longer suppressed,” she added. (30)