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Last Updated: 12/15/2005
Violence Against Women: The Case of the Philippines
Grace N. Mallorca-Bernabe

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The United Nations decade for Women (1976-1985) brought to the fore the issue of gender-based violence, particularly violence against women (VAW). This phenomenon, which was previously regarded as rare or non-existent, was given focal attention as its incidence all over the world became very alarming.

Variously referred to as “sexual violence”, “gender violence“ or “violence against women“, this age-old issue and reality has gained urgency only recently because of the significant work of women advocates and survivors in naming the problem. It includes domestic violence, rape, trafficking in women and girls, forced prostitution, and violence in armed conflict, such as murder, systematic rape, sexual slavery and forced pregnancy. It also includes honor killings, dowry-related violence, female infanticide and prenatal sex selection in favor of male babies, female genital mutilation, and other harmful practices and traditions. These forms show that violence against women maybe viewed in a “continuum” occurring at various life cycle stages of a woman’s life.

Such violence arise from a “complex interaction between, on one hand, pervasive political and social structures in which women generally have less power than men, and on the other, individual responses to these structures.” This imbalance in power relationship between women and men often means that men are influenced by their notions of masculinity, including the use of and acceptance of violence in various aspects of his life including within the context of relationships with women.

VAW is closely linked with the unequal power relationship between women and men otherwise known as “gender-based violence.” It is related to how women and men feel, experience and think about the world around them, perceptions that are influenced by the system of power and how organization, policies, norms and behaviors support those systems in different contexts. It is rooted in ideas of what it means to be a woman, and what it is to be man; in the notion that men are entitled to certain types of power; and in the consequences that ensue when that entitlement is thwarted.

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) 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 and private life.”

Two years later, this issue was further reiterated as one of the twelve critical areas of concerns in the Beijing Declaration-Fourth World Conference on Women, known as the Beijing Platform for Action.

Grace N. Mallorca-Bernabe has been in the field of development work for more than ten years, and more than eight years in gender/women's work. She actively participated in the advocacy for the passage of Republic Act 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against and their Children Act of 2004 and RA 9208 or the Anti-trafficking in Persons Act. She is the Technical Officer for the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW).