A(nti)-VAW

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The fight to eliminate violence against women continues. And this crusade goes into high gear as the global community observes International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (Friday, Nov. 25).

The celebration, focusing on the theme, “UNITE: Activism to End Violence against Women and Girls”, actually launched the worldwide observance of the annual United Nations-initiated 16 Days of Activism campaign that ends on Dec. 10, which will be marked as International Human Rights Day.

While headway has been gained since the global observance was started more than four decades ago, VAW remains a widespread concern, UN confirms largely unreported cases “due to the impunity, silence, stigma and shame surrounding it.”

The headway comes often in a painful way, like death, as in the now celebrated case of Mahsa Amini, a 22- -year-old Iranian woman, who died in September this year in the hands of Iranian police following her arrest for not wearing the hijab as prescribed by law.

Her death sparked prolonged national protests, especially among women and girls, resulting in deaths across Iran. The protests have gained international support and action.

UN has spelled out the nature of continuing cases of violence against women to include physical, sexual and psychological forms. These cover battering, psychological abuse, marital rape and femicide.

Also under this concern are sexual violence and harassment — which ranges from rape, forced sexual acts, unwatched sexual advances, child sexual abuse, forced marriage, street harassment, stalking, and cyber harassment.

There are also situations of human trafficking – including slavery and sexual exploitation – female genital mutilation in certain societies and child marriage.

All these have been documented to lead to “adverse psychological, sexual and reproductive health consequences” affecting women in all stages of their life.

In the Philippines National and local measures have been implemented as a result of intense lobbying and campaign for the protection of woman and girls. Foremost among these measures is R.A. 9262 of 2003, which imposes, among others, jail term and mandatory payment for damages.

To highlight the significance of the Nov. 25 event, UN Women shared the following facts since the pandemic started:

• 45 percent of women around the world reported that they or a woman they know had experienced a form of VAW and girls.

• Seven in 10 women said that they think that verbal or physical abuse by a partner has become more common.

• Six in 10 felt that sexual harassment in public spaces has worsened.

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In Negros Occidental, the two-week campaign will be an 18-day activity with the opening salvo on Nov. 24 which will include ‘binalaybay’ and ‘composo’ contests.

Our NW columnist and women’s rights advocate Marie June Pavillar-Castro said the Provincial Council for Women will hold a talk on Human Rights and VAW at Nature’s Village in Talisay City.

Gender and Sensitivity trainings are also scheduled during the period.

The observance in Bacolod City, on the other hand, includes the wearing of orange (the color of the event) accessories or shirts, training of social workers on gender-responsive case management for barangay VAW desk workers and an orientation on women’s laws for barangay leaders.

Orange ribbons also bedeck the Capitol front.

The culminating activity in the city on Dec. 12, will be the “Women Unite, Take Back the Night” and Orange Zumba at the BGC fountain area.

A similar ‘Women Unite, Take Back the Night’ activity will be held by the PWC at the Capitol Lagoon on Dec. 9, when the council will hold the awards rites for the Best Barangay Desk and Desk Officer in the Province.

On the last day, PWC will recognize outstanding LGUs for their Campaign on VAW observance.

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Let us take heed of what UN Secretary -General Antonio Guterres said in his message for the Nov. 25 celebration:

“I call on governments, the private sector, civil society and people everywhere to take a firm stand against sexual violence and misogyny. We must show greater solidarity with survivors, advocates and women’s rights defenders. And we must promote women’s rights and equal opportunities.

“Together, we can – and must – end rape and sexual assault of all kinds.”

We remember in our prayers the 58 persons, including 32 media workers, who died in the Maguindanao massacre on Nov. 23 nine years ago.

We pray that the families of the victims will eventually attain the justice they all have been seeking for.

We further pray that impunity for crimes against journalists in the country and elsewhere will finally be put to an end.

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So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12) – NWI

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