Resist ‘victim’ label, De Lima urges women

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As the nation commemorates International Women’s Day today, Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged Filipino women to work together and resist being victims of gender-based abuses by misogynists in power.

In a message read during the launch of #EveryWoman’s #BantayBastos Campaign, De Lima said women should make a meaningful difference by defending dignity and human rights without being cowed.

“These attacks against women [do] not only attempt to weaken women’s sense of self-worth, or undermine their contributions to society, but, most insidiously, it makes it difficult – if not impossible – for them to fight for themselves and for others,” she said.

“That we are all here today is a statement that we will not let ourselves be pigeonholed into the role of victims. That we will do more than just cry foul about misogynistic attacks, and the other degrading and humiliating treatment of women in society today,” she added.

The launch of #BantayBastos Campaign by #EveryWoman in partnership with the University of the Philippines-College of Social Work and Community Development was held at the UP Hotel in Quezon City and attended by women from various sectors.

In fighting for justice and equality, De Lima said women should hold people accountable for their words and actions even as they engage the citizenry in healthy discussions on gender-based issues hounding the patriarchal society.

“Take, for instance, misogynistic comments made by certain public servants in the past. We cannot ignore the fact that there are those who are much too willing to give such comments a pass as being ‘harmless’ or, as is the trend these days, ‘a joke.’ It is this mentality that we have to change,” she said.

“We must take away this weapon by making it impotent. We cannot do this simply my making a list. We must engage those who need to understand the harmful impact of these acts,” she added.

The former justice secretary clarified, however, that defending human rights and women’s dignity does not end with promoting awareness and accountability.

She noted, “we must take care that our solution will [also] help their victims heal, move on and become stronger and more productive citizens.” De Lima said she hopes EveryWoman’s #BantayBastos campaign becomes a powerful tool in helping victims – women or otherwise – reclaim control of their lives, as well as demand accountability from public figures. “I have full faith and confidence that this campaign, in the able and compassionate hands of #EveryWoman, will be a success and will be the source of hope for other victims of misogyny and other abusive conducts,” she said. After all, she added, “we all are EveryWoman because all women’s issues are human rights issues, and all human rights issues are women’s issues.

De Lima, who was recognized by Amnesty International as one of the notable Women Human Rights Defenders Under Threat, is a staunch defender of women’s rights and gender equality.

She has already authored and co-authored several bills and resolutions advocating women’s rights, including Senate Bill No. 1438 focusing on the protection of women in state custody and Senate Resolution No. 670 calling for a Senate inquiry into the implementation of the GAD plans and programs under the present administration.

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