When a house is not a home

By Pat Samin, UN SDSN Youth Philippines Volunteer | Published on August 11, 2020 10:47:11 AM

The rise of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines has prompted stay-at-home directives. However, a home is not always a safe space for some fellow countrymen. While many enjoy the comforts of their home, this is not the case for some people, especially those who live with their abusers.

Sometimes, our means of escape are certain places such as coffee shops, malls, our schools or offices, and our friends. However, the pandemic has forced these places to close and has therefore confined us all to our homes. Where do the unprivileged turn to without these means of escape?

While the pandemic looms around the city, another monster finds its way to its victims in closed quarters. Cases of domestic violence are believed to be increasing during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the World Health Organization, stay-at-home policies place women at an increased risk of suffering from intimate partner violence (IPV). Women have become more vulnerable due to additional stress and burden brought about by economic and financial difficulties and decreased access to psychosocial support from family and friends. Crisis and protection centers may also be affected by the lockdowns especially at a time of limited mobility. Since abuse is not confined to the physical aspect, abusers also tend to manipulate their victims by keeping them misinformed about the pandemic which further prevents them from leaving and seeking help.

In the Philippines, monitoring and tracking of cases of domestic violence has always been particularly challenging. Before the pandemic, cases of violence against women and children from January 2020 appeared to be on a steady decline (as reported by the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Commission on Women). Moreover, there is a further decrease in reported cases since March. However, conflicting reports suggest that people must remain cautious of these numbers as these may be a result of underreporting of complaints and inaccessibility of social services at a time of crisis.

As mentioned above, incidents of abuse and harassment on women, children, and members of the LGBT community have been reported to increase in Quezon City. Recent data shows that 602 people were being victimized early into the imposition of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon from March 17 to May 23. With these reports of violence, the local government has responded through the reopening of the QC Protection Center or QCPC. From an article published by Rappler, data from the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) report that 804 incidents of gender-based violence on women and children were reported from March 15 to April 30.

With stricter and prolonged quarantine measures, children have also become more vulnerable to child pornography. Though cases of online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) have already been present in the Philippines, COVID-19 lockdowns have led to the surge of OSEC cases. At the time of the lockdown, data from the Philippine Department of Justice Office of Cybercrime shows an upturn in cases. A 265% increase in the number of reports from the year 2019 of the same period was observed for online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) specifically from March 1 to May 24, 2020. The rise in cases could be attributed to economic strains to marginalized households especially at this time.

While the government aims to strengthen its efforts in alleviating the impacts of COVID-19, abuse and rape cases continue to be neglected. As the coronavirus pandemic is a public health issue, measures to be taken for preventing violence against women and children should be considered as well since these pose serious risks to the physical and psychological health of its victims. Although the victims may not die of the virus, must we let them suffer because of what happens within their houses?

The government must empower the Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC)’s resources, look into people’s state of living, and extend help to those who are abused. Anti-VAWC laws should be supplemented with mass instruction campaigns and services, and this information should reach those who have little to no knowledge of such cases. If a house is no longer a home for victims, they should be given a chance to walk away and receive the help they deserve.

Sources:
https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/331699/WHO-SRH-20.04-eng.pdf.
https://rappler.com/newsbreak/in-depth/during-coronavirus-lockdown-abused-women-children-more-vulnerable
https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1103866
(https://rappler.com/newsbreak/in-depth/during-coronavirus-lockdown-abused-women-children-more-vulnerable)
https://www.cnn.ph/life/culture/2020/6/11/online-exploitation.html)

Data Churner:
Nicole Ortiz
Volunteer, Data Churner
UN SDSN Youth Philippines

Graphic by:
Kei Siguenza
Volunteer, Data Presentor
UN SDSN Youth Philippines