24 January 2012

Measures to Protect Women and Children

Women's Health
Women and children are vulnerable segments of the population in almost all parts of the world. Incidences of violence committed against these sectors of the population impede the achievement of objectives of development and peace. Violations committed against women and children both infringe the enjoyment of basic human rights and fundamental freedom. The most pervasive form of gender-based violence against women is reported to be abuse by husbands or intimate partners. Sexual assault is also common, but only a small fraction of rapes are reported to the police.

Based on police records physical abuse is the most common violation committed against women. Incidences of sexual abuse and emotional abuse likewise are increasing. Statistics also showed that sexual abuse, specifically attempted rape, constituted the bulk of cases of violence against children that were reported to the PNP. Physical injuries came in second.

Meanwhile, children in especially difficult circumstances or those needing special protection are estimated at 2.9 million. Children in this situation are either physically, sexually or emotionally abused; exploited sexually and in hazardous labour conditions; in conflict with the law; and victims of other forms of abuse like drug abuse, drug sales, child trafficking and abduction. A total of 5,692 incidents were reported to the WCCD categorized as crimes committed against children in 2004.


The Philippine government is a signatory to all United Nations declarations and conventions that pertain to women, particularly violence against women, and has gone much ahead of other countries in coming up with very specific measures to address it. Since 1986, it has been actively and consciously promoting issues concerning women including gender equality, a policy that aims to eradicate gender-based inequalities and enable women and men to equally contribute to and benefit from development.

On the legislative front, the passage of laws relating to violence against women, the Anti-Rape Law of 1997 or R. A. No. 8353, and the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995 or R. A. No. 7877, and most recently, the law against violence inflicted on women in intimate relations, constitute some of the landmark achievements in the advancement of women rights in the Philippines. To some extent, this legislation redefined the view of the justice system on gender-based violence thereby freeing women and children from the fear of injustice. There are still other pending bills in Congress against trafficking in human beings, particularly women and children, domestic violence and prostitution.

In addition to legal reforms, institutional reforms and new programmes were undertaken by the government to prevent violence against women and children. An Inter-Agency Committee (IAC) on Violence against Women has been organized by the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW) to better protect the rights of women especially the most vulnerable, such as women in detention, women in situations of trafficking and prostitution, women workers, as well as victims and survivors of violent incidences. Aside from the NCRFW, agencies included in the IAC are the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Civil Service Commission (CSC), Department of Budget Management (DBM), Department of Education (DepEd), DILG, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), NAPOLCOM, PNP, Department of Health (DOH), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of National Defence (DND), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), National Statistics Coordinating Board (NSCB), and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA).

The PNP has also established the Women and Children Concerns Desks in police stations nationwide to provide specialized services to victims of Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC). The Department of Health has 44 hospitals with Women’s and Children’s Protection Units. The DSWD created Crisis Intervention Units and implemented regular programmes for women and children in especially difficult circumstances in all regions in the country. The NBI has set up one-stop-shop VAW desks. Community-based programs have been strengthened to respond to the needs of the victims and their families. These include providing psychosocial interventions and various forms of educational, legal, and medical assistance, as well as extending support services including livelihood programmes to families, and strengthening the family system and values education.

Despite these initiatives, violence against women and children continues unabated because of the weakness in addressing the root causes, as well as lapses in the response mechanism. A more concerted effort and a sustained campaign and advocacy programme on women and children’s rights should be organized. There is a need to exercise more political will to enforce and implement existing laws on women and children and for the government to build up stronger cases against their abusers. Likewise, there is the urgency of training law enforcers, judges, prosecutors and media practitioners in handling cases of women and children.