Violence against women an 'epidemic' in PH – expert

MANILA, Philippines – University of the Philippines Dean of the College of Social Work and Community Development Sylvia Claudio urged the public and the government to do more to combat violence against women (VAW), saying this is an "epidemic" in the Philippines.

In a panel discussion during the International Women's Day Summit 2019 on Friday, March 8, Claudio said violence against women is an "urgent" situation that affects not just women but their communities as well. 

"Violence against women is a worldwide and national epidemic. The numbers are just too high…. It is an urgent situation and it has been going on for so very long," Claudio said.

She added: "We have only touched very few aspects of violence against women. When we talk about sexual violence, we do not really delve into sexual harassment, the levels of sexual harassment from catcalling, all the way to rape in an office or school setting." 

What's at stake: Claudio explained that VAW, when not addressed, can be linked to physical and mental health, and security problems, among others. She cited cases seen in her years as a psychologist, where patients' personality disorders could be linked to past abuses.

"[Violence] causes too many other problems, for example in my psychological clinic…personality disorders usually has a link to that severe childhood abuse. Unwanted pregnancies tend to come from violence against women…. This isn't just violence to the person, it's what happens as well after and to the bigger community," she said.

Data from the 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey backed this as it revealed at least 1 in 20 women aged 15 to 49 said they experienced some form of sexual violence. Of those who were abused, data showed only 2 in 5 women sought help or reported the incident.

The figures were even more stark when it came to married women, as 1 in 4 women reported experiencing violence carried out by their husband or partner. This covered physical, sexual, or emotional violence.

According to the World Bank, VAW often stunts contributions women can make to the country's development. It added VAW can cause countries up to 3.7% of its gross domestic product – an amount often larger than what most governments spend on education.

Where to start? Everyone, and not just women, should fight VAW. 

One way to address VAW, Claudio said, is to start tackling the issue at home, where attitudes towards VAW can be addressed and changed.

"We have to work with families…. Misogyny is not just about women, it's also about democratic societies, and we have to start with the family," she said.

Claudio likewise suggested that schools should educate children about women's rights and gender equality. She also urged stronger implementation of laws that protect women. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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