Violence against women, in its many forms, has long ceased to be a private matter.
It is indeed a public issue, a national concern, that is no longer confined to the walls of the home.
We are now in the thick of the 18-day campaign to end violence against women, observed from Nov. 25 to Dec. 12. According to the Philippine Commission on Women, the campaign expresses support to the government’s goal to protect the human rights of women and to address all forms of gender-based violence.
The numbers from the National Demographic and Health Survey paint an alarming scenario. In 2017, one in four—26 percent—of the 11,558 ever-married Filipino women aged 15 to 49 surveyed has experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence committed by their husband or partner.
Statistics of the police, social workers and health workers only reflect cases that are actually reported to them.
The theme of the commemoration is “VAW-free community starts with me”—emphasizing that everyone, not only the victims and their childlren, has a stake in combating domestic violence.
But beyond calendar commemorations, people must realize that violence against women—and the culture of silence and passive acceptance that comes with it—has deep-seated roots that must first be acknowledged before they can be addressed.
They come from traditional ways of thinking that, for instance, violence is a way to “discipline” women, or that it is a wife’s duty to tolerate her partner’s gross behavior, that marriages are religiously ordained and thus inviolable at all costs, or that sex is an obligation that must be performed on demand.
These mindsets may have been acceptable decades ago, so it comes as a shock that acts of violence continue to happen today, even in the most progressive of communities and families.
That women must be “sheltered” and “protected” from their abusers is also an outdated view. The best way the larger community can help is to empower women to know better, to know their rights and stand up for themselves, and to realize they have options and that they are not irrevocably bound to their abusers.
The campaign lasts for 18 days, but every day is an opportunity to enlighten somebody—a friend, an acquaintance, a total stranger—that there is absolutely no justification for violence and that it must never be tolerated, not even from those they love.