PHILIPPINES: WOMEN’S GROUP FEARS RISE IN RAPE, HUMAN TRAFFICKING CASES IN DISASTER AREAS

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Date: 27 November Type: News Source: Bulatlat Keywords: women, rape, human trafficking, humanitarian

MANILA – Women’s group Gabriela expressed alarm over the increasing incidences of cases of rape and human trafficking in disaster stricken areas in Zamboanga and Leyte.

Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) Rep. Luz Ilagan said that in times of crisis, women and children are most vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

The GWP cited the reported arrest of an alleged pimp in Zamboanga City for human trafficking. Two 19-year-old girls were reportedly rescued. According to the report, the alleged pimp was arrested in an entrapment operation against prostitution at the Joaquin Enriquez Memorial Complex where displaced families are temporarily seeking refuge after the September armed skirmishes between the Moro National Liberation Front and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Save the Children also reported cases of rape, attempted rape and child prostitution in evacuation centers in Zamboanga.

They also expressed concerns regarding reports of rape cases in Tacloban, Leyte. “A humanitarian crisis of this proportion can and will spawn violence. It is high time that the Aquino government gets its act together rather than waste time and effort defending itself from international criticism for its glaringly disorganized and incompetent response to the disaster brought about by super typhoon Yolanda,” said GWP Rep. Luz Ilagan.

Gabriela also deplored the absence of government authorities right after typhoon Yolanda hit Eastern Visayas.

“We deplore the absence of government authorities, especially those coming from the national government, for fast rescue, relief, rebuilding and order restoration efforts on the ground since the typhoon struck. Military and police forces are being deployed only to guard against possible ‘mob attacks’ driven by desperation for food and other immediate means to survive,” the group said in a statement.

The group said destruction, hunger, misery and lack of immediate and appropriate government support to the people have pushed them to commit acts of desperation such as food ransacking, and looting from the dead. “Gravely victimized by the typhoon due to an utter lack of necessary pre-disaster assistance from the government, the Filipino people are now rendered victims by the neglect and inaction of the Aquino government in mitigating the effects of the typhoon.”

Government neglect

Despite the laws protecting women and children, cases of violence against women and children are still increasing. Filipino women and children who were displaced in the Zamboanga stand-off and the disaster in Eastern Visayas are more vulnerable to abuses.

According to the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) there are 37 laws, decrees and resolutions protecting the interests of women and children such as the Republic Act 9262 or Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004.

The GWP lambasted what it calls as the government’s almost non-existent child protection systems as cases continue to rise, even as the Philippine government is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

“We decry the wanton neglect that children and women suffer under the government’s almost non-existent child protection systems as we mark the 24th anniversary of the ratification by the United Nations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child or CRC,” GWP said in a statement. The ratification of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child marked its 24th year on Nov. 20. Gabriela also cited the rape and sexual cases in Haiti where many women and girls were victimized. “The experiences in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the deadly earthquake in Haiti teach us that disaster situations heighten women and girls’ vulnerability to rape and sexual violence as desperation pushes people to commit violence against what society deems as the ‘weakest.’”

Gabriela said they are alarmed over the government inaction and inefficiency in dealing with the crisis as it poses a dangerous backdrop to the eruption of more cases of rape and violence against women and children.

“We call on the Aquino government to organize and fast-track its efforts to bring assistance to the victims of typhoon Yolanda. Our people have suffered enough; their further suffering from government neglect is now in your hands.”

The GWP meanwhile vowed to continue its commitment to protect women and children. Just recently, the women solons filed House Resolution 453 which Directs the Committees on the Welfare of Children and Women and Gender Equality to conduct an inquiry on the virtual “Sweetie” and the glaring inability of the Philippine government to stop pedophilia and child pornography.

The solons fear more “Sweeties” will proliferate in the wake of the poverty amplified by disaster and war.

“Gabriela will never rest until the protection of children and their families become of paramount importance to government agencies,” GWP Emmi De Jesus said.

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