By: Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, InterAksyon.com November 25, 2013 3:40 PM
MANILA, Philippines -- The Gabriela party-list on Monday said there is a need to look into reports of rape and other incidents of violence against women and children in the wake of natural and manmade calamities.
Representative Luz Ilagan said a Gabriela team led by her colleague, Representative Emmi de Jesus, is in Tacloban City, one of the worst hit by super typhoon “Yolanda,” to verify the reports aside from delivering relief goods to survivors.
"We have been receiving reports that there are cases of violence against women and children in disaster areas. For Leyte, we have yet to confirm. In fact, Representative Emmi is in Leyte to get actual data," Ilagan said in an interview at the House of Representatives during the first commemoration of National Consciousness Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women.
"One reason for this is their present situation in evacuation areas. Some people take advantage of the extra vulnerability of women and children there. They endure the abnormal situation -- no decent sleeping place, no medicine, no food, no clothing. It's hard to imagine why some people abuse this condition of women and children," she said.
She noted that, "The first documented case of 'palit-bigas' (in exchange for rice) prostitution was documented in areas surrounding evacuation sites in Zambales when Mt. Pinatubo erupted (in 1991).”
“Widespread incidents of prostitution and trafficking, especially among orphaned children were reported when the earthquake stuck Haiti in 2011," she added.
In a separate statement, De Jesus said intense poverty and slow delivery of basic social services "can and will spawn violence against women and children."
"There is no electricity, this increases the vulnerability of women and children, and makes nighttime more dangerous," she added.
The commemoration of National Consciousness Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women is mandated by Republic Act 10398, which was signed into law on March 19.
Ilagan said through the years, Gabriela, the Philippine National Police Women and Children Protection Desk and various government organizations like Talikala and Center for Women's Resources have noted an increase in violence against women and children.
In 2012, the PNP reported 15,969 cases of violence against women and children, and 5,180 cases of rape and attempted rape. Of the reported cases, 3,861 involved children and minors.
Ilagan said the advent of social media has also given birth to a new phenomenon, electronic violence against women and children.
Earlier this year, the two Gabriela representatives Ilagan and De Jesus filed House Bill 6815, which seeks to expand the law on violence against women and children to include electronic violence.