Orange Days — continuing the efforts to end violence against women
In 1996, Legal Alternatives for Women Center, Inc. started its work of joining women victims of violence in claiming their rights. Its first case was that of a married woman who had been raped twice by a “habal-habal” driver. She had approached the barangay captain with evidence. The accused came to court with an obviously wealthy lawyer (with gold jewelry). The barangay captain failed to bring the evidence. The victim was very depressed with the decision. The case had been dismissed. The judge had questioned why the woman had taken a second ride with this driver after the first rape experience. She was on her way to buy medicine for an ailing child. In many places in the countryside, the motorcycle is the only available vehicle.
Further investigation on the part of the office staff uncovered that the perpetrator and the barangay captain were mini-drug lords. The decision resulted in the woman’s depression and even resulted in her separation with her husband. Nuns came to the rescue, providing her with a job and assisting in her healing.
Several cases of sexual harassment followed, including one involving sexual harassment electronically. With the workplace as venue, the case was decided by a labor court in favor of the woman victim.
LAW Center Inc. was part of the wide coalition, Women’s Solidarity in the case of Chong sisters: a case involving kidnapping, rape and killing. Judge Martin Ocampo decided on the conviction of the accused. Thelma Chiong sustained her commitment in the defense of women victim’s of violence.
Atty. Arbet Sta. Ana-Yongco, LAW Center, Inc.’s leader for legal services, fought for the conviction of the accused in the parricide case of Alona Bacolod. In the course of the case, Alona’s brothers who were to be witnesses in the case were also killed. Atty Arbet herself was killed in her office early in the morning as she prayed to prepare herself in the work of defending women victims of violence.
As VAW continues, so does the struggle. November 25 is International Day of Fight Violence Against Women. Since 1991, this day became the first day of the 16-day campaign to oppose violence against women — from the opening the last day was December 10, the day of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to assert that women’s rights are human rights. Since December 12 is the International Day Against Trafficking in Persons, this is now an 18-day campaign.
In the first half of this year, the Philippine Commission on Women decided on making each 25th day of the month Orange Day, a time “to raise awareness and take action to end violence against women.” So in June, the day was for “safe education for girls”; July focused on reducing “inequality within and among nations”; August for “sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth providing full employment and decent work for all”; and for October “access to justice and peaceful societies.
Women’s champion Ms. Tess Banaynal-Fernandez in Sa Mata sa Kababayn-an (LAW Center, Inc. program at CCTN) discussed the need to go deeper within both men and women as they struggle with violence. She stressed that the struggle is not only about convicting the perpetrators (often men) of violence against women. To look within ourselves and reflect and accept that there too is violence there. For this reason, the Cebu City Women and Family Affairs Commission and the Cebu City Gender and Development Federation will be holding several training-workshops on the Cycle of Violence, Understanding VAW and Basic Protocols in Handling VAW cases for Barangay Service Providers.
In relation to the 18-day campaign to oppose violence against women, many activities have been planned. On November 25 at 11:00 a.m., Kaabag sa Sugbo, University of Southern Philippines Founation, and the Cebu Provincial Commission will be holding the opening ceremony of Faces of VAW Exhibit. A poetry reading will also be held at the Cebu Provincial Capitol social hall. In the afternoon and in the same venue, the Cebu City Commission on Women and Family Affairs Commission, civil society organizations and government agencies have organized a public forum: “Ending the Cycle of Violence Towards a VAW-free Community.” On November 26 in the Cebu City social hall, the CCWFA and PhilACTS will hold a whole day wellness activity through the community resiliency model for victims/survivors of VAW.
On November 29, Kaabag sa Sugbo and the Provincial Women’s Commission will hold the Convergence Forum: Creating Synergy in the Campaign Against Trafficking at the Cebu Provincial Capitol social hall starting at 8:00 a.m. In the afternoon at the UP Cebu Arts and Sciences Building, Sidlak Region VII Gender Resource Center, led by the Philippine Commission on Women now chaired by Dr. Rhodora Masilang-Bucoy, will hold a special gathering which will feature an anti-VAW film.
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