The Philippines enjoys a favorable ranking in the global gender equality index.
In 2018, the World Economic Forum ranked the country at the 8th spot, a position higher from the previous 10th place among 149 countries worldwide. It also praised the country for closing 80% of its gender gap in the areas of educational reach, labor, political empowerment, health and survival.
But the bright picture belies the grim situation of gender-based violence in the Philippines.In the 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), it revealed that one in four women have ever experienced spousal violence.
Violence is pervasive even before marriage. The NDHS indicated that 14 percent of girls and women aged 15 to 49 have ever experienced physical violence since they were 15 years old.
Children are not in better situations either. The Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC)’s 2018 national baseline study of violence against children found that 8 out of 10 children and young people have experienced some form of violence in their lifetime and it usually occur at home.
Furthermore, 1 out of 5 children below 18 has experienced sexual violence while growing up.
For spousal abuse, the NDHS said that most common perpetrator of physical violence against women who were ever married is their current or most recent husband or partner.
The CWC said in households with parental histories of physical abuse growing up, combined with financial stress due to poverty and illegal substance use, the wrongdoers are both parents, with men more frequently inflicting harm.
Among girls and boys who experience sexual violence, the common offenders are brothers, fathers or male cousins.
“In Asia, the Philippines is one of the most gender equal countries,” said Benjamin de Leon, president of the Forum for Family Planning and Development (The Forum), but he said “it is with deep concern that we in the civil society organizations that work in communities witness a different reality that needs to be changed.”
De Leon lamented that in many households and communities, violence is part of societal norms and is even an acceptable behavior. In the majority of cases, men as heads and members of families are the ones committing harm on women and children.
In reproductive health decisions, de Leon said women are held back by male machismo as their partners tend to pressure them to have more children than they desire, placing the burden on women who may suffer poor health from too many pregnancies and may not be able to achieve the family size that they want.
The NDHS also showed that the level of violence that women experience also varies from region to region. In the report, it showed that in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao 7 percent of ever-married women experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence by their partners compared with 52 percent of ever-married women in Caraga region.
The report also underscored that all forms of violence generally decline with an increasing household wealth.
The Forum who advocates for sound policies that address family welfare will push for effort that will increase the understanding of men regarding these issues in order for both women and men to uphold mutual respect and to have a better decision-making in reproductive health.
“We have an urgent request to the men. We would like to enjoin you to be wise and sensitive,” said De Leon, by urging them to respond on the needs of their partners for the benefit of their families. (The news appeared at IMT News – March 14, 2019