Group vs gender-based violence says rape should be treated as human rights crime
MANILA, Philippines — There is a need to educate people in the justice system, particularly judges, in order to “charge rapists as we should,” advocates against rape and gender-based violence said on Tuesday.
Speaking with reporters in a media forum focusing on the #RespetoNaman campaign against gender-based violence in the Philippines, founder of EMPOWER Kat Alano said a lot of judges in the country are “ruling [rape] cases based on the old law.”
“Actually the law that’s in place now is not actually really lacking too much, it needs tweaking here and there, but the real issue here is that a lot of people within the justice system and also in our legal framework don’t know that the law was actually changed in 1997,” Alano claimed.
“[Our] law used to state that rape is a crime against chastity and now our law states that it’s a crime against human rights and they don’t have briefings on this, no mandatory briefings in the DOJ (Department of Justice), so a lot of lawyers and judges are still ruling cases based on the old law which is a big flaw for us,” she further said.
According to Alano, personnel of agencies usually exposed to rape cases including the Philippine National Police (PNP), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and the DOJ, should undergo mandatory briefing.
“We want to really raise awareness and have mandatory briefings in place for…the PNP, the NBI, the DOJ, lawyers, judges and hopefully improve the system, it’s really just a matter of updating and making sure that everybody is up to date…so that we can go forward and charge rapists as we should,” she said.
She, likewise, expressed concern over the age of consent provided by the law which is 12 years old.
“Our age of consent here is 12 years old, which is also a big problem for us because that means that if you are raped after the age of 12, you then have to prove in a court room that you are raped, which is horrific and incredibly traumatizing for any 12 year old,” Alano said.
Rape shield provision
According to Barry Gutierrez, lawyer and spokesperson of Vice President Leni Robredo, “attitude” of the people in the justice system, particularly judges, “has not shifted from…what it was 30 years ago.”
“I agree that’s there’s really a huge need to educate judges in particular because actually we have a Rape Shield Law which actually prohibits the introduction of—among other things—past sexual history of the complainant as a part of the defense,” he said.
But Gutierrez said that while there is a policy in place and a provision in the law which prohibits the use of the complainant’s past sexual conduct in a case, it “continues to be the practice.”
“It (past sexual history) should not be considered by judges but because we have such a long history of jurisprudence…it long established that it is permissible for a defense attorney to introduce past sexual history of the complainant as a defense in a rape case,” he said.
“So you have a situation where in a rape trial, instead of the perpetrator being the one questioned, the burden is actually shifted to the person complaining. ‘How can it be rape if you’ve had this many partners before? Or because you dress in a particular way. Or because you went out at night with all these people’,” he further explained.
Following in the footsteps of Sweden
Swedish Ambassador to the Philippines Harald Fries, who hosted the media discussion in his home in Makati, said that a new law in Sweden regarding sexual consent created a “concrete effect” in terms of convicting rapists in the Nordic country.
“The #MeToo uproar…created this enormous outrage in Sweden and demands for change when it comes to behavior but also legislation,” Fries said.
The #MeToo movement, which first emerged in the United States in 2017, caught international attention as it raised awareness and opened up a platform for victims of sexual harassment to step forward.
“It took only half a year for the Swedish parliament to pass a new law regarding sexual consent. The new law says that for any sexual act, it has to be explicitly clear of mutual consent. If that is not explicitly clear, it is rape,” Fries explained.
“And after this law was passed, the sentences for rape has increased in Sweden and the sentences have become longer. So this law has really had a concrete effect,” he added.
In 2018, the Embassy of Sweden in the Philippines launched #RespetoNaman: A Nationwide Campaign Against Gender-Based Violence in partnership with the Office of the Vice President, UN Women, Spark Philippines, and EMPOWER.
The #RespetoNaman campaign, which was inspired by global campaigns such as the #MeToo movement, focuses on shedding light on the issue of rape and sexual harassment. (Editor: Mike U. Frialde)
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