Ending VAW, advocates’ main call on Int’l Women’s Day

MANILA -- Calls to end violence against women (VAW) again was the focus in the celebration of the 2019 International Women's Day in Manila on Friday.

"VAW is the most egregious manifestation of women's subordinate position in the society, so for as long as VAW exists, we cannot say that we are making any progress in terms of achieving gender justice and even more than that gender equality," Nathalie Verceles, director of the University of the Philippines Center for Women's and Gender Studies (UPCWGS), said on the sidelines of the International Women's Day Summit 2019 in Taguig City.

"We still have a long way to go. It's a challenge but we have to work together," she said.

According to 2017 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, 24 percent of Filipino women aged 15 years to 45 years have experienced physical, sexual, and emotional violence committed by their husbands or partners.

While a law against VAW is in place, certain realities that hinder its full implementation are still present, Verceles said.

She noted that in abusive marriages alone, the issue is not only about the women's willingness to leave but what prevents them from leaving.

"There are constraints in particular for poor women to use that law to save them from abusive marriages, because even if they can file cases, if they have four children, if they are unemployed, who will help them leave their husbands? Where will they find employment if they have not ever worked, if they are reliant on male breadwinners?" Verceles said.

"There are realities that need to be taken into consideration that inhibit women from seeking refuge fully in that law," she added.

During a press conference, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) blamed the problem on social norms and culture, which condone violence against women and children.

"In addition to women demanding for justice, there should be more men and boys' engagement to help transform these social norms and culture. I believe there are many men like ourselves who wants to fight VAW," said Iori Kato, country representative to UNFPA.

"It's also very important to work on the social norm transformation from when people are still very young," he added.

While the shift in social norm is one aspect in ending VAW, Verceles said addressing the issue requires multifaceted solution -- a start of which could be empowering women "economically and politically."

"We can't attack the problem from one dimension, we have to look at education, health, employment, livelihood, and we need to raise awareness about inequalities not just on the basis of gender but also intersectional identities, such as class, ethnicity, disability, and sexual orientation," she said.

Meanwhile, Victoria Garchitorena, founder of the summit organizer Samahan ng mga Pilipina para sa Reporma at Kaunlaran (SPARK), said men are still considered superior over women in many countries, including the Philippines.

"In many poor families, in many poor areas around the Philippines, the misogyny is still there. The men feel that they have more power over women and that women should be subservient to men. Even in big corporations (it's evident)," she said.

Through the summit, Garchitorena hopes they could promote ways to advance the rights and representation of Filipino women in cooperation with SPARKS' partners -- the Office of the Vice President, the embassies of Sweden and Austria, and the UNFPA.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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