With the aim of promoting women empowerment and addressing violence against women amid the pandemic, Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista invited a panel of women leaders to share their thoughts in Real Talk: #MarchWithWomen, a webinar last March 25 on Zoom and Facebook Live.
The speakers for the event include Christina Madlangbayan, a congressional staffer in the House of Representatives; Marikina City Second District Rep. Stella Quimbo; Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA) Filipinas co-founder Naomi Fontanos; and Dr. Gia Sison, Philippine leader of Livestrong Foundation.
A long-running problem
Fontanos emphasized the importance of discussing violence against women as it is a form of discrimination and inequality toward not only women but also members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“Kaya mahalaga na ito ang ating pag-usapan dahil hangga’t mayroong karahasan sa lipunan, ibig sabihin ay marami sa atin ang hindi nakakaranas ng katarungan.” she asserted.
(That is why it is important for us to discuss this (violence against women) because while there is violence in our society, it means that a lot of us do not experience justice.)
Citing recent statistics from the Social Weather Stations which found that one in four adult Filipinos believe that violence against women is among the most pressing concerns amidst the pandemic, Sison stresed the importance of addressing the issue as this “disenfranchises women from reaching their full potential to contribute to society.”
Trauma, behavioral problems, or an underlying reason could be causes of violence against women, according to Sison, but various angles as to why it happens should also be considered. However, Sision probes, that no matter what the cause may be, it can never be justified.
Fontanos, meanwhile, discussed the concept of “binary gender”, a concept that he said was introduced to the Philippines by colonizers, as a reason why the LGBTQ+ community, especially transgendered people, have been a victim of violence.
Based on a study by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the country had a multi-gender system before the Spaniards arrived. Under their rule, the concept of binary gender was used to justify bigotry and hatred toward those who “violated” it.
“It is important to note that asog, bayoguin, bakla, bayot and bantut were not originally meant as categories of sexual orientation but rather gender terms,” Fontanos said in the report. “This means that Filipino culture is amenable to the idea of gender variance or gender diversity, that there are not only two but instead possibly a variety of genders.”
A safe space
Due to the prolonged lockdown, women-dominated establishments were “critically impacted” by the shutdown of several business sectors, Quimbo remarked. According to her, this increases women’s vulnerability since “economic empowerment is the main factor that protects women against violence.”
“Ang kailangan natin isulong na policies is really…economic stimulus. Sa pagbangon ng ekonomiya, ang nasa harap po niyan is kababaihan,” she voiced, adding that programs focused on poverty reduction decreases cases of women abuse.
(We need to propose policies centered on economic stimulus. At the forefront of the economic recovery are women.)
Madlangbayan also added that economic instability may “trigger abusive behavior” from spouses as financial problems raise tension within the household. To counter these forms of violence, the Gabriela Partylist currently offers women protection programs through the Rape Victim Assistance and Protection Actand is in the process of proposing new bills in Congress.
With regards to hospitals being unable to accommodate victims of abuse due to rising COVID-19 cases, Sison stressed that this is a sign to call for more support groups and accessibility on psychosocial interventions during the pandemic. “It’s about time that we give equal importance sa mental health and even abuse to women,” she noted.
“We are in this together. This is not an individual struggle, and now more than ever, we need to help each other survive, especially since we are also facing threats from our own government,” Fontanos expressed.