With the resurgence of authoritarianism and misogyny under the Duterte administration, Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima today rallied Filipinos to work together with renewed vigor in ending all forms of misogynist attacks against women.
In her message on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women today (Nov. 25), De Lima underscored the need to push back harder in rejecting the misogyny of those in positions of power to guarantee the protection of women’s rights at all times.
“What do we do when no less than the man occupying the highest post in the land promotes rape culture through his misogynistic statements and his sexual harassment of women in public?” she asked.
“What do we do when this attitude emboldens others to blame women for the sexual violence, harassment or rape inflicted upon them, while the perpetrators of the crimes are held blameless and walk away scot-free?” she added.
In calling for action, De Lima said Filipinos should “strongly reject all forms of harassment committed everyday so that women are able to express themselves without stigma.”
Observed every Nov. 25, the United Nations (UN) marked the day as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women to highlight the issue of violence against women and girls and call for more action to combat abuses against them.
As issued by the UN General Assembly in 1993, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”
De Lima, one of the women human rights defenders under threat in the Philippines, maintained that misogyny and the violence against women that it enables have no place in a just society that values freedom and upholds the dignity of everyone.
“Armed with the full resolve to call out abhorrent treatment of women, let us courageously stand up and not cower in silence, even if those in power choose to denigrate women by their action or inaction,” she said.
As part of her effort to defend women’s rights, De Lima co-authored Republic Act No. 11313 or the Safe Spaces Act that protects everyone from gender-based sexual harassment in public, private, and online spaces. The law is principally authored by Sen. Risa Hontiveros.
De Lima, however, maintained that “we need to do more,” saying that her work continues in eliminating discrimination and patriarchal systems that set back the women’s struggle for social liberation, this present 18th Congress, by filing meaningful legislations.
“I filed Senate Bill No. 1148 that seeks to increase the number of female police officers in the Philippine National Police to provide women more equitable access to employment in law enforcement,” she noted.
De Lima said her proposed measure “hopes to boost a gender-sensitive police force that will be as active in enforcing anti-VAW (violence against women) laws as any other criminal statute.”
In addition, De Lima said she also filed Senate Bill No. 622 which raises the age of sexual consent from 12 to 18 years old. She said the bill aims “to protect minors against rape because adolescent girls are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse.”
Since Mr. Duterte assumed presidency in 2016, women human rights defenders including De Lima, and activists in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community have become vulnerable to harassment and misogynistic attacks and sexual violence.