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The scene of the crime was a narrow salawalls painted in shards of orange, yellow, and maroon. In any other home in locked-down Caloocan City, it would have been the setting for a family's endless afternoons watching television.
Or evenings on the karaoke machineblasting sappy ball until the neighbors complained. But this sala had no TV or sing-along machine. What it had was a desktop computer, a mobile phone, and remittance receipts from Australia.
In this salaa year-old woman was arrested for forcing her 3 kids to perform sexual acts on camera. Somewhere else in an undisclosed province in locked-down Luzon, a yellow house hid a similar horror — a year-old woman making 7 kids do lewd acts in front of a webcam.
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Four of the kids were her own children. The youngest victim was just 3 years old. A woman is arrested in her living room for making her children do lewd acts on camera. Photo from International Justice Mission. These are just two cases of sexual abuse reported to authorities during the coronavirus lockdown imposed in Luzon since March Watchdog groups had warned of an increase in such incidents because stay-at-home measures are locking in victims with their abusers.
Stomp into winter
But government data shows that the of cases of gender-based abuse and violence reported to authorities declined during the first month and a half of coronavirus lockdown measures. The figures could mean a reduced prevalence of abuse, but it could also point to something even more worrisome: victims simply unable to report abuse, partly due to the quarantine measures themselves. The quarantine measures likely breed situations that make it more difficult for a victim-survivor to report crimes.
The Philippine Commission on Women PCW said they could be discouraged by "limited mobility and the absence of public transportation" in areas where this has been suspended to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Being constantly in the presence of abusers due to strict stay-at-home orders may also make victims scared of reporting violence.
Health issues specific to women’s health
Most of these women are not able to seek help because they fear being overheard by their abusive partners or are stopped from leaving home," said the Commission on Human Rights in a statement on April 5. Only one in 3 Filipinas who have experienced physical or sexual violence sought help to stop the abuse, according to the National Demographic and Health Survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Data from the PCW obtained by Rappler shows that incidents of gender-based violence and violence against women and children were reported from March 15 to April 30 — the period when Luzon and other parts of the country were on lockdown. March 15 was the first day of the Metro Manila lockdown, quickly followed by the Luzon-wide lockwide declared on March The lockdowns were supposed to end on April 30 but were extended until May 15 for the megacity and other parts of Luzon.
Cities and provinces outside of Luzon had also declared their own lockdowns during this period.
The reported cases come from all over the country, pertaining to violations of 8 laws — anti-violence against women and children law, anti-rape law, revised penal code provisions against acts of lasciviousness and concubinage, anti-photo and video voyeurism law, anti-trafficking persons law, anti-sexual harassment law, and the safe spaces law.
The of reported cases during lockdown was lower than the of cases reported in the months. However, the cases were already on a downward trajectory during these months. In Januarythere were 1, reported cases nationwide. In February, it went down to 1, For March, the figure dipped further to 1, For a better view of this graph, go here.
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Despite the downward trajectory in the months before the lockdown, women's and children's rights groups warned of an uptick in abuse during the lockdown because of the stay-at-home measures. It's tricky to postulate why the of reported gender-based abuses went down during the weeks of the lockdown period. But gender rights watchdog groups do say that the coronavirus pandemic may have an impact in two ways: government personnel and resources are stretched thin and lockdown measures are breeding grounds for situations that discourage victims from reporting abuse.
Her group, based in Dumaguete City which had its own lockdown starting April 3, provides legal assistance to abused women. The barangays are still able to release the protection orders on time or within 24 hours, but not as speedily as in the past, she said. However, she clarified these were only for a few cases and it isn't prudent to make any generalizations based on them.
The issue may be the lack of manpower, she surmised. While cities could have 20 or more Ladies any one around for a pnp workers able to delegate various tasks among themselves, some municipalities have only one social worker.
With the pandemic, it's not surprising their plates are full. PCW itself said in an to Rappler that " disrupted public services like police, justice and social services" could contribute to lower reports of abuse.
During coronavirus lockdown: abused women, children more vulnerable
GWAVE also encountered more difficulty in filing legal cases against perpetrators of abuse. While the judiciary has enabled online filing, Del Socorro said the process takes longer. The delays could greatly affect the case since it could give time for the accused to leave or pressure the victim into not pushing through with the case. GWAVE itself has received 35 complaints of abuse during the lockdown period March 17 to April 29 from calls, texts, and Facebook messages.
Most of these are complaints of economic abuse, or acts that make or attempt to make a woman financially dependent. The women told GWAVE that their partners refuse to provide financial support to the family, saying they have no money because of the lockdown's impact on their jobs. There were also 5 cases of sexual abuse of children, including a case of incest, when Ladies any one around for a pnp kids were molested by a close family member living in the same house. The challenge now is to make sure that channels are open and are readily available to victims of domestic violence," said Hontiveros.
Despite the pandemic, the government has vowed no let-up in its efforts to help victims of gender-based abuse. This was mentioned in no less than President Rodrigo Duterte's reports to Congress about the pandemic. Duterte also gave assurances the DILG and PCW are "c ontinuously monitoring and actively responding" to inquiries and reports on abuses.
Watchdogs and government agencies encourage anyone suffering from gender-based abuse to report the crime, even during lockdown. The CHR launched a platform for reporting gender-based violence online.
PCW said the government's referral services continue to take calls. Phone services are especially emphasized precisely because of the quarantine measures. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia. Pia Ranada.
The youngest victim was a 5-year-old girl. Victim behavior. What the data says.
In the graph below, hover over the lines and points to see the figures. This makes the lower of cases during lockdown worth investigating. Stretched thin. The same is true for local DSWD and women and children protection desks.
Recent complaints. Government promise. Who to call?
Below is the list of ways to reach authorities when reporting gender-based abuse:.