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Philippine News Digest 86

October 20, 2006 · 


1. Punishing the exploiters, not the exploited

2. Commentary : Violence against children

Punishing the exploiters, not the exploited
October 18, 2006
by; Tonette Orejas, Inquirer

ALMA Bulawan is 45. Mylene Aniola is 27. Although they have 18 years between them, the two women have fought the same battles.

Bulawan’s group, the Buklod ng Kababaihan (Unity of Women), formed in 1987, gives literacy classes, facilitates educational scholarship and livelihood projects, conducts rights and health seminars, carries out research and campaign, provides counseling, and taps legal services for abused prostituted women and children in Olongapo City and Subic, Zambales.

Aniola’s group, the Bagong Kamalayan (New Consciousness) Collective Inc., provides the same services on a smaller scale since she and six other former street hookers founded the group in 2004. Its work is focused in Quezon City and Manila.

Buklod taps social institutions and churches for funds, and raises money by doing laundry, selling school supplies and recycling bags from tetra packs.

Equal protection
Their third crusade is a shared advocacy for the passage of House Bill 2419 or the antiprostitution bill. The House committee on revision of laws sent the draft to the technical working group in June, according to an update by Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, one of the 13 authors.

On Oct. 5, Buklod, Bagong Kamalayan, Preda and the Olongapo-Zambales Civil Society Network led a motorcade and rally to gather local support for the bill.

Held in time for the “International Day of No Prostitution,” these were the first activities done in Olongapo City and Subic town, where prostitution thrived during the presence of the United States military.

Olongapo Mayor James Gordon Jr. disagreed. “There is no prostitution in the city. We’ve been on the watch for it because it is unlawful,” he said.

But 14 years after the US closed down its base and pulled out its sailors with the Seventh Fleet, at least 94 bars do business on Olongapo’s Magsaysay Avenue and in Barangay Barreto and 37 in Subic town’s Barangays Calapandayan and Philseco, according to a Buklod study in 2004.

The registered women bar workers reached 4,758 in Olongapo and 238 in Subic town.

In both areas, though, the unregistered workers-mostly young women selling their bodies on the streets-had counted at least 1,500, the study said.

These numbers, according to Bulawan, are more than a fourth of the 16,000 women drawn and degraded into prostitution in the 1980s.

While the trade rose and fell with the coming and going of United States soldiers, it now caters to American soldiers coming for military exercises held under the Visiting Forces Agreement and to foreigners, expatriates and locals, Bulawan said.

The number of women rises every time large-scale training is held, which involve between 3,000 and 5,000 troops.

Bar owners and pimps serve these troops by bringing the women inside the Subic Bay Freeport, all fetched and taken out in vans-a scheme that Gordon said he was unaware of.

Commentary : Violence against children
WORLD VIEW, First posted: Oct 16, 2006
By Louise Arbour, Inquirer
Editor’s Note: Published on page A11 of the October 17, 2006 issue of the
Philippine Daily Inquirer

A VEIL of silence covers violence against children, yet abuses are so pervasive that no country can ignore them, and no society can claim to be immune from them. Despite almost universal acceptance of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, governments’ concrete initiatives to counter such violence have been inadequate.

Turning a blind eye to this phenomenon or claiming ignorance of its incidence and implications will now be very difficult. After more than three years of work, the “World Report on Violence Against Children,” a United Nations study (released last Oct. 11) provides a comprehensive account of the root causes and effects of the problem. In maintaining that such violence is never justifiable, it presents a range of measures that could prevent and curb abuses. The study also gathers existing statistics and data from a variety of sources and combines human rights, public health and child protection experiences and approaches to paint a global picture of this disturbing problem.

It documents that in 2002, 150 million girls and 73 million boys experienced forced sexual intercourse and other forms of sexual violence; between 100 million and 140 million girls and women have undergone some form of female genital mutilation; of the 218 million of children who were working in 2004, 5.7 million were in forced or bonded labor in 2000 — 1.8 million in prostitution and pornography and 1.2 million were victims of trafficking. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the independent expert appointed by the UN secretary general to direct the study, concludes that children endure violence in silence and hopelessness because of shame and fear of retribution, and because such abuses are sometimes state-authorized and generally socially approved.

Failure to protect children starts with those who are directly responsible for their welfare and security in families, schools and the communities where they live and work. Indeed, the study notes, “the majority of violent acts experienced by children is perpetrated by people who are part of their lives.” But ultimately, the chain of responsibility ends with states which, under international human rights law, have an obligation to provide an environment in which children can fully enjoy their rights without fear of abuse and retribution.

The Convention of the Rights of the Child offers the most comprehensive legal framework to address violence against children. Its provisions protect them from physical and mental abuse, injury, neglect, maltreatment and exploitation, including sexual coercion. Along with other treaties, the convention obliges governments to act forcefully to ensure that anyone who has the care of a child, even for a short period, refrains from abusive conduct.

In many states, legislation addressing violence against children concentrates on sexual or physical violence, but ignores psychological violence and neglect. Other countries lack the security indispensable to effective protection or the capacity and structures that give teeth to prevention measures and safeguard mechanisms. As a result, an untold number of children continue to suffer every day all over the world with scarce or non-existent options for recourse, while their tormentors are unscathed.

The imposition of the death penalty against minors is the most egregious example of state-enforced abuse. In some countries, less severe sentences may include flogging, stoning and amputation. Disciplinary measures that may amount to cruel, degrading and unusual treatment or punishment are legal and applied in the penal institutions of at least 77 countries. All such practices are anathema to international human rights law. ###


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