July 1, 2020
Even before the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, gender-based violence (GBV) has been one of the challenges that the vulnerable sectors of the society is struggling to overcome. As highlighted by the National Demographic and Health Survey 2017 (NDHS, 2017), 3 out of 20 young girls and women age 15-49 suffer from physical abuse, while 1 out of 20 experienced sexual abuse. Further, spousal violence happened to 25% of married women in the country. What’s even worse is that most of these abuses happened in the comfort of the victim’s home. With the COVID-19 situation, many families may feel safe in their homes, but many people also feel unsecured and afraid.
With the implementation of the stay-at-home protocol, many abuse incidents at home may stay unnoticed and unreported. Violence perpetrated by members of the family may increase and may even be severe especially that both the victim and the perpetrator dwell at the same house for a long period of time. It is also feared that during the community quarantine where a great number of employees have been laid off due to closing of establishments and companies not offering essential goods and services, perpetrators may be more agitated and inclined to physically abuse someone because of distress of not having food to eat or money to buy necessary items. The pandemic did not only bring health risks to the Filipino people but also economic and social risks which may cause long-term, negative effects.
In Northern Mindanao, 42 gender-based violence complaints were received by the Philippine National Police-Region 10 from March 15 to April 30, 2020: 33 violations of RA 9262, 6 cases of RA 8353, and 3 cases of Acts of Lasciviousness Article 336 of the Revised Penal Code. Although it has been observed that GBV cases have lowered even before the start of the community quarantine, everyone is encouraged to be vigilant and report any form of abuse happening in their home or in their community. The decrease in GBV related cases during this time may mean that victims are finding it difficult to report the abuse due to limitations in movement and restrictions, like going out, during the quarantine.
In the middle of the chaos in ensuring protection of every Filipino against COVID-19, it is imperative that the vulnerable sectors of the society be protected against prolonged and continuous abuse. It must be part of the government’s plan of action to provide support to the victims and be their voice especially at this time when they are forced to face the horrors of their unsafe home and suffer in silence.
Parents are also reminded of the disadvantages of irresponsible use of the internet and to ensure that they know the activities of their children in the different social networking sites and to educate them in using the internet with care and caution.
The Commission on Population and Development-Region X is one with the country in battling gender-based violence. In this pandemic, POPCOM-X launches the RPFP/COVID-19 Helpline which will answer questions and concerns on responsible parenthood and family planning, adolescent health and development, and gender-based violence. This way, victims of GBV may be able to ask for help and support though the helpline.
For assistance, couples or individuals may contact 088 (858-5409) or visit POPCOM-X Facebook page www.facebook.com/popcomx.