WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the world prepares to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25, Embassy personnel and members of the Filipino-American community gathered for a forum on a Campaign to End Violence Against Women (VAW).
In his welcome remarks, Minister Patrick Chuasoto, Chargé d’Affaires of the Philippine Embassy, pointed out the importance of discussing the issue of VAW.
“It is ironic that in conflict situations, for example, women are common targets of violence, and yet they are the ones on whom the families and communities rely the most when it is time to heal and rebuild. It is time that all of us recognize the strength of women, treat them with respect and stop their victimization from violence in their homes and everywhere else,” said Minister Chuasoto.
Marie Ramos, Outreach and Training Coordinator at the Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project, shared her knowledge on addressing VAW and her experience in dealing with cases of domestic violence among the immigrant community in the United States. Atty. JV Chan-Gonzaga, Minister and Economic Officer at the Embassy, talked about Philippine and international laws on the elimination of violence against women and children.
According to Ramos, domestic violence can affect anyone, regardless of social class, race, and gender. She described how domestic violence looks in the Asian/Pacific Islander communities, including the incidence of “in-law” violence.
Ramos said expressing empathy and support is the best way to deal with a victim and shared tips on how to receive such information shared in confidence.
“That first conversation is critical. There are varied ways to express empathy and support, such as saying ‘I support you’ or ‘would you like us to seek help and advice together?’ While it is a common knee-jerk reaction, telling the person to ‘just leave’ is not advisable as it can drive the person to do something to put their life at risk. Most importantly, respect the person’s decision, whatever that might be,” said Ramos.
In his presentation, Atty. Chan-Gonzaga provided a comprehensive view of international and Philippine domestic legal contexts with respect to eliminating violence against women and children.
He underscored the radical provision of Republic Act 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004, which criminalizes several categories of abuse including physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and economic abuse. The law treats acts such as causing physical, threatening physical harm, attempting to cause physical harm, placing the woman or child in fear of imminent physical harm, inflicting or threatening to inflict harm on oneself to control the victim’s actions/decisions, and knowingly or purposely engaging in conduct that causes substantial emotion or psychological distress to the victim as acts of violence against women and children.
“The Philippine law on violence against women and children is state-of-the-art in many respects. However, there is still much to do to enhance enforcement and prosecution capabilities,” said Atty. Chan-Gonzaga.
Both panelists pointed to the historical imbalance in power and gender relations as the main contributory factor to the persistence of VAW among societies. They also emphasized the need to shift cultural attitudes and norms in order to eliminate VAW, and pointed out the movement towards recognizing that men can also be victims of domestic violence.
The forum was part of the Embassy’s Talakayan sa Pasuguan series and the Gender and Development (GAD) program of the Philippine Government. Through the GAD program, the government is working towards mainstreaming gender issues and promoting gender equality in society.
The Domestic Violence Research Project is a Washington DC-based, survivor-centered and survivor-run organization which aims to address, prevent, and end domestic violence and sexual assault in Asian/Pacific Islander communities while empowering survivors to rebuild their lives after abuse. The organization provides survivor services, community outreach, and technical assistance.