[Blueboard] Domestic Violence and the Law
polsci at admu.edu.ph
polsci at admu.edu.ph
Fri Mar 12 13:32:55 PHT 2004
Domestic Violence and the Law
by Jennifer Santiago Oreta
Department of Political Science
Studies conducted during the 70s and the early 80s reveal that in most cases,
Filipinas are content with their lot and accepted the traditional ascribed
roles of homemakers. (Torres, 1989) Filipinos are socialized in the belief
that the womans place is in the home and the mans place is to support or
provide the financial needs of the family. Generation after generation, this
belief system has continued.
The traditional notion of Filipinas is to preserve marriage at all cost. Women
do not come forward even if their partners are already physically abusing
them. Some reasons given why some women refuse to leave are:
° The partner might still change for the better.
° She still loves the man despite everything.
° She cant have a broken family; shes doing it for the children.
° She cant support the children by herself.
° She doesnt want her parents to blame her for the break-up of marriage.
° Shes afraid of what the man might do to her.
° The man might take her kids.
° She probably deserves the beating.
° She does not want to tarnish the good reputation of the man.
° Its natural for women to be beaten.
° Nobody else can understand her man, she pities him.
° If she improves, she wont get beaten.
° Shes afraid to be alone and lonely.
° Shes not familiar about her rights.
° Its a family affair, others should not meddle.
° The man might lose his job if she calls the police.
° She was brought up to think that pleasing the man is her responsibility.
° Shes used to it.
Aside from all these myths, domestic violence persists also because of the
prevailing legal environment. In cases of conflict between husband and wife,
the law leans heavily on spousal reconciliation. The primary consideration is
the salvation of marriage at all cost. For instance, the Family Code (Art. 58)
recommends a cooling-off period of six-months for a couple who files for
separation. This cooling-off period applies regardless of what the grounds for
separation are. It even applies to cases where the conflict stems from
domestic violence. Domestic violence is a catch-all phrase that refers to
marital rape, wife battering, incest, and others.
RA 8353 or the Anti-Rape Law of 1997 is a landmark legislation because
it redefines rape as a crime against persons rather than a crime against
chastity. Rape now becomes a public crime, as opposed to the old law that
regarded it as a private crime (crime against chastity). However, the law is
still vague when the persons involved are legally married. Marriage,
seemingly, makes the husband incapable of rape, and gives him wholesale
authority over his wifes body, making her a mere possession.
Still, Chapter 3 Art 266-C of RA 8353 declares the effect of pardon in
The subsequent forgiveness by the wife
shall extinguish the
criminal action or the penalty imposed. A public crime (rape) can, apparently,
be extinguished by an individual through the act of forgiveness. Marriage
absolves the criminal act committed against a person.
Marital rape is as rampant as ordinary rape. In a US study conducted by Diana
Russel (1990), more than one in every seven women have been raped in
marriage. It must be noted that rape has a broader definition in US
jurisprudence. One does not have to physically resist the aggressor to be
considered raped. When the wife submits to have sex out of fear due to verbal
threat or deprivation of certain necessities, the act is considered rape.
Another effort by the Philippine Government to protect rape victims is the
passage of Republic Act 8505 on February 13, 1998. The law provides for the
giving of assistance and protection to rape victims. It mandates the
establishment of Rape Crisis Centers in every province and provides them with
the necessary budget.
>From January to September 2001, data from the Philippine National Police (PNP)
Womens and Childrens Desk reveal that wife battering accounts for 55.1% of
reported cases of violence against women.
In the same period, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)
helped a total of 5,504 battered women. As of November 2001, a study by the
NCRFW shows that the largest group of battered women are within the age-group
of 18-25 years old. Majority of them blame themselves for the abuses committed
against themselves and their children.
The common understanding of incest is that it is a carnal or sexual
relationship between persons who are closely related by blood or legal
relations. It is commonly seen as an act of using power or taking advantage of
a minors trust by someone who is greater in age. E. Sue Blume defines incest
as the imposition of sexually inappropriate acts, or acts with sexual
overtones, or any use of a minor to meet the sexual/ emotional needs of one or
more persons who derive authority through on-going emotional bonding with that
child. (Dimacali-Bartolome, Tin, Taking the lid off incest, in Parents.)
Incest thrives in secrecy. Most often, victims are too ashamed to admit that
they were taken advantaged of. The honor of the family and the fear of being
looked with disdain and being ostracized prevent one from coming out in the
The 1997 Anti-Rape law allows other people, aside from the victim, to file
charges on behalf of the victim. The parent/s, the Women Crisis Intervention
Centers, and concerned government agencies like DSWD and the PNP can file
charges against the perpetrator if the victim is afraid to file it
him/herself. However, most incest cases still do not prosper because victims
themselves file affidavits of desistance. (Interview: Antoinetta Rellin,
Coordinator of Lihok Pilipina)
High profile cases (e.g. Carlsons suicide, Kris & Joey break-up) called the
attention of the public to domestic violence. Domestic violence was
categorized under the broad term physical injuries. The passage of the Anti-
Violence Against Women (VAW) and their Children Act of 2004 by the 11th
Congress before it adjourned this year was considered a victory of womens
rights advocates. VAW advocates had been pushing for this bill since the 9th
Congress. This victory has been largely credited to the Abanse Pinay sectoral
representative Patricia Sarenas. The law covers any act of violence committed
by any person against a woman who is his wife, former wife, girlfriend or live-
in partner. It also includes violence against her child whether legitimate or
The bias of the State is to protect marriage and family at all cost. I agree
that indeed there is a need to further strengthen the bond between husband and
wife. There are threats, however, that need to be acknowledged. Among them is
the issue of domestic violence, which includes rape, battering, and incest. Due
to the increasing cases of domestic violence, the VAW is considered a landmark
legislation to protect women and children in family relations. It aims to
break the prevalent notion among law enforcers and the courts that domestic
violence is a private matter to be settled between parties, and that there is
no law that explicitly punishes it.
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