As countries under COVID-19 lockdowns see a surge in domestic violence, Senator Win Gatchalian is urging the Inter-Agency Council on Violence Against Women and Their Children (IACVAWC) to ensure that the implementation of Republic Act 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004 remains in full force.
Prior to the spike in the cases of COVID-19 in the country, the Center for Women’s Resources in early March already reported that violence against women continues to be among the issues that haunt women and children. The training institution for women raised the alarm as recent data on violence against women and children (VAWC) showed that at least one woman or child is abused every 10 minutes in the country.
Data on nationwide violence against women and children from the Philippine National Police-Women and Children Protection Center (PNP-WCPC) showed there were 9,935 reported cases from April to June 2019.
Gatchalian said quarantine measures may lead to a surge in domestic violence and make it harder for victims to go out of their homes to seek help.
Reports of domestic abuses in Paris had jumped 36% and 32% elsewhere in France since the country began a nationwide lockdown on March 17. The cases included two murders. In Malaysia, the Women and Family Development Ministry’s helpline for women and children received 1,893 calls in nine days or a spike of 57% since the partial lockdown in the country started.
“Kahit na nasa ilalim tayo ng isang enhanced community quarantine, patuloy dapat ang pagkilos ng mga ahensya ng ating gobyerno na nagbibigay proteksyon sa mga inaabusong kababaihan at kabataan. Hindi natin dapat hayaang maging talamak ang karahasan lalo na’t nasa gitna tayo ng isang krisis” said Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.
Gatchalian emphasized the key role of barangays since they are often nearest to victims and witnesses of abuse. Under the Protocol for Case Management of Child Victims of Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation drafted by the Committee for the Special Protection of Children, barangays must have help desks that will monitor cases of child abuse and violence against women. Barangays are also mandated to coordinate with social workers, health officials, and women and children protection units to give intervention and assistance to the victims.
Gatchalian also called on the National Bureau of Investigation’s Violence Against Women and Children Desk (NBI-VACWD) and the Philippine National Police’s Women and Children Protection Center (PNP-WCPC) to be more vigilant and accessible.
According to the National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children in the Philippines published in 2016, about three in five children aged 13-24 experienced any form of physical violence during childhood, with 60 percent of these cases happening at home.
The study also revealed that almost three out of five children have been verbally abused, threatened, or abandoned by parents or guardians. Among children aged 13-18, 13.7 percent experienced sexual abuse at home.