Duterte—Women’s Month spoiler

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WOMEN’s Month was particularly memorable this year. Last March 8, International Women’s Day, feminist organizations converged at La Madre Filipina statue of the Mother and Child at Rizal Park to rally for women’s rights and speak against the misogyny flaunted by President Duterte and his administration.

Feminism, undoubtedly a foreign concept, has gained ground in the Philippines through the years. But its roots go deeper.

In its truest sense, the movement is for equal rights and privileges between the two sexes, and it may date back to the turn of the 20th century in the West as a movement for women’s right to education, suffrage, and personal property.

Since then, the philosophy at the core of feminism has come to be understood in various ways. Some might even say it has become so strong a sentiment of the masses that at times feminist campaigns become vicious and rabid.

But feminism seems to take on a different character in this country — a country that arguably has a largely maternal society where women even of precolonial past naturally already held crucial and respectable functions in communities and households.

It is even evident in faith. Filipino Catholics, for instance, venerate Mary, the Madonna or Mother of God.

In a 2018 report by the World Economic Forum, the Philippines ranked eighth in the Global Gender Gap, holding a spot as one of the most gender equal countries in Asia (the report was based on statistics of women’s health, educational attainment, work force and political empowerment).

Clearly, the statistics prove that the problem of women in our country is not so much in the access to rights but in the defense of their rights against those who, by force or power, seek to subvert them. This issue is celebrated and flaunted all over mainstream media and social media, not only by politically motivated groups, but also by commerce and the market.

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Don't shoot the messengers, doc

In this country, feminism seems to take on issues of violation more prominently than deprivation of rights – not surprising when the Duterte government, known for bossism and misogyny, puts women on public trial such as in the ousting of chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and the detention of Sen. Leila de Lima on trumped-up drug charges.

Misogyny, whether as reality or as propaganda, is being spread by the current administration and harassment of women is much too much an everyday reality.
Women’s public safety has become such an issue in our country that a bill penalizing catcalling and other forms of non-physical sexual harassment was passed last October.

Sexual harassment cases come more common than a cold, and rape cases are alarmingly high, according to a report from the Philippine National Police that said there were almost 3,000 cases of rape in a span of five months, between January to May last year.

Women have learned to take extra caution when wandering at night, and who can blame them? Isn’t it natural to feel a little uneasy when the police put up a poster that says attractiveness or wearing clothes that are too revealing invites harassment and rape?
Hell, even the President himself throws lewd comments around like a ball.

Heinous crimes are committed under such an anti-woman climate, such as the case of Christine Silawan, a 16-year-old girl from Cebu who was raped and murdered, the flesh of her face mutilated making her almost unrecognizable. Her body was found naked on March 11 in a vacant lot in Lapu-Lapu City.

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Don't shoot the messengers, doc

Crimes like what happened Silawan are crimes against humanity, not just women. Thus, the fight for women’s rights is a fight for human rights—and this is why feminism has become increasingly relevant not only for Filipino women but for Filipinos of all sexes or so called orientations.

Filipinas fight for their rights not to get even with an unjust society, but to ensure their safety and security—a fundamental human right. If we do not join the women in the crusade to uphold what is inherently theirs (and ours), then we are no better than the darkness that has barricaded itself in the white palace by the river, a shadow of murderous tyrants who claim to serve and respect the country when they can’t even serve and respect the people, especially women and children.

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