Hontiveros fears possible surge in domestic abuse amid lockdown
MANILA, Philippines — “The quarantine is difficult for all of us. But it is a living nightmare for women who are trapped with their abusers behind closed doors.”
Senator Risa Hontiveros said this on Wednesday as she warned of a possible rise in domestic abuse cases in the country as the entire Luzon remains under lockdown due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.
“There will be a surge of domestically-abused Filipino women if we turn a blind eye. We must take all necessary actions to stop any form of violence within the family,” said Hontiveros, chair of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Gender Equality, and Family Relations.
“Because of the proximity in the home and added stress due to economic hardship brought by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), Filipino women and children who are living with their abusers become more vulnerable to violence,” Hontiveros added.
“This is extremely worrying,” she further said.
The senator cited global reports on the rising incidence of domestic abuse in cities and countries that have implemented similar quarantine measures.
“There is a pattern. For places that have implemented a lockdown, from China to France, there is an increase of domestic violence in cases reported to the authorities,” she said.
While the extension of the enhanced community quarantine is necessary, Hontiveros said authorities must work doubly-hard to ensure the protection of women and children.
“The lockdown should not allow us to become lax in securing the safety of women and children,” Hontiveros said.
She urged the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) to strengthen anti-domestic violence measures.
“The challenge now is to make sure that channels are open and are readily-available to victims of domestic violence,” she said.
Hontiveros also urged the PNP to strengthen its ties with local government units (LGUs) and barangays in the campaign against domestic violence during the time of the quarantine.
“We need the LGUs, the PNP, and PCW to remain vigilant. At-risk women and children should know that they can ask for help even during quarantine,” the senator said.
Hontiveros further urged PCW to coordinate with LGUs in setting up a new domestic violence helpline in all barangays.
She also suggested that LGUs consider preparing safehouses for vulnerable women and children.
The senator cited latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority which showed that one in four women aged 15 to 49 has experienced sexual, physical, and emotional abuse from a husband or partner.
“Those who are living with domestic abusers are suffering from multiple forms of trauma during this pandemic,” she said.
“During this very difficult time of COVID-19, let us work harder in keeping our women and children safe,” she added.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier placed the entire Luzon under enhanced community quarantine as the number of COVID-19 cases in the country continued to increase.
The quarantine was imposed on March 17, and was initially set to be lifted on April 13. The quarantine period, however, has been extended until April 30.
To date, Philippine health officials have confirmed 5,223 COVID-19 cases in the country.
Of the number, 335 have died while 295 patients have so far recovered.
Edited by JPV
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