Philippines: Act Now Against Violence Against Women

SUMMARY

Women's rights advocates in the Philippines call for the passage of landmark legislation which would define and criminalize domestic violence, as well as provide for protection orders to defend its victims. At the same time, threats have reportedly been made against proponents of the legislation, particularly one who is the founder of a lesbian organization. IGLHRC is concerned by indications that this activist, Anna Leah Sarabia, is being targeted for her sexual orientation in an attempt to discredit her activities as well as to undermine the legislation.

IGLHRC urges letters of concern to Philippine government officials, supporting the legislation and urging investigation of the alleged threats. A sample letter can be found below.
ACTION

Please write to:

Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President, Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
Manila
Fax: +63-2-736-8621
E-mail: corres@op.gov.ph
Hon. Corazon Juliano Soliman
Secretary
Department of Social Welfare and Development
Phone: +63-2-931-79-16
Fax: +63-2-931-81-91
E-mail: dinky@miss.dswd.gov.ph
Hon. Atty. Aurora Recinia
Chair, Commission on Human Rights
Fax: +63-2-929-0102
E-mail: apnr@chr.gov.ph
Hon. Aurora Javate de Dios
Chair
National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women
Phone: +63-2-735-18-64
Fax: +63-2-736-44-49
E-mail: board@ncrfw.gov.ph
5. Senator Franklin M. Drilon
President
Senate of the Philippines
Phone: +63-2-552-67-81 or 552-68-76
Fax: +63-2-551-29-93
E-mail: Fmd@sendrilon.org.ph
Representative Jose de Venecia
Speaker
House of Representatives
Philippine Congress
Phone: +63-2-931-62-16
Fax: +63-2-931-55-56

You may also forward your messages of support to the Task Force on Justice for Maria Teresa Carlson and Other Victims of Violence against Women in the Home to kalakasan@iconn.com.ph and sarilaya@info.com.ph.

Please send copies of your messages to the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) at ilga@ilga.org.

SAMPLE LETTER

Dear

I write to express my urgent support for bills now before the Philippine Congress, which would define and address domestic violence. I urge you to endorse and vote for these bills, and to support versions of the legislation which would define such violence and its victims expansively, ensuring that not only blood relatives and spouses but partners in other intimate relationships--as well as domestic helpers, boarders and renters, and other persons sharing a household--are fully protected from violence and abuse.

I am also concerned by reports that threats have been made against proponents of this legislation, and that they may have been targeted for abuse because of their sexual orientation. I urge you to accord such allegations a full, impartial, and immediate investigation.

Sincerely,

BACKGROUND

The Philippine Congress is considering legislation which would define and address domestic violence for the first time in Philippine law. The bills (Senate Bill 292 and House Bill 2205) exist in different versions, but would essentially penalize "any act or series of acts that result in or likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering of family or household members." (Some versions define household members expansively to include domestic helpers, boarders, and renters-- as well as blood relatives, spouses, common-law spouses, and persons having a child in common.) In addition to setting criminal penalties for domestic violence, the legislation would provide for court-issued protection orders. These orders would prevent violent or threatening acts or harassment against victims, as well as contact, physical proximity, or communication; they would also allow for compensation and social services to the victims.

For women's rights advocates, this proposed legislation is the product of years of organizing and lobbying. However, some advocates fear direct retaliation as a result of their efforts. In particular, Anna Leah Sarabia--an activist with the Philippine womens' group KALAKASAN, founder of the lesbian organization Can't Live in the Closet (CLIC), and the current Co-Secretary General of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA)--alleges receiving threats from the Governor of Ilocos Norte province, Rodolfo Farinas. In 1996, when Farinas' wife, Maria Teresa Carlson, went to the media with allegations of battery by her husband, KALAKASAN intervened in her defense. After returning to her husband, Carlson committed suicide in November of this year, under circumstances which some women's rights activists have alleged were questionable. Farinas has reportedly denounced Sarabia since then, calling her "that lesbian" and accusing women's organizations of being lesbian-dominated.

IGLHRC is concerned that these reported attacks on Sarabia because of her sexual orientation represent an attempt to undermine the recognized rights of women to association and expression in the public sphere--as well as an attempt to incite prejudice and promote discrimination. IGLHRC has elsewhere written of such attacks that "they are not just name-calling. They are meant to have a material effect. They are designed to keep women from organizing to occupy a place and presence in the public sphere. They are designed to keep women from transgressing set boundaries of acceptable behavior. They are methods of control. They also invade and degrade the privacies of women, not only their intimate lives but the literal spaces, whether secluded or not, in which they may meet and gather." (For further information on how such attacks have been mounted in the global arena, and how they stand condemned in international law, see IGLHRC's report, "Written Out: How Sexuality Is Used to Target Women's Organizing," at http://www.iglhrc.org/publications/books/index.html#writtenOut).

FURTHER INFORMATION

An early draft of SB 292 can be found at http://www.philwomen.net/senate/news/1999/sb-292.htm

A summary of HB 2205 can be found at http://www.ncrfw.gov.ph/legis_agenda/la_anti-domestic_violence.htm

For further information, contact:

Anna Leah Sarabia
Mobile phone: +63 918 920 4552
Office: +63 2 924 4945 or 921 2222
womedia@phil.gn.apc.org

or w_lead@philonline.com.ph

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