UP IHR holds a public forum on Anti-Rape Laws in the Philippines

UP IHR holds a public forum on Anti-Rape Laws in the Philippines

In celebration of National Women’s Month and International Women’s Day, the UP Law Center Institute of Human Rights (UP IHR) held a public forum on 8 March 2024 titled “Strengthening Justice: Assessing and Advancing Anti-Rape Laws in the Philippines.”

UP College of Law Dean Darlene Marie B. Berberabe opened the event by emphasizing the need for the forum in order to critically assess the implementation of ‘The Stronger Protection Against Rape and Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Act of 2022,’ or Republic Act No. 11648, and its application and effectiveness at local and barangay levels in addressing rape cases. Highlighting the discrepancy between the supposed strengthened legal framework vis-à-vis the persisting realities of violence against women, Dean Berberabe underscored the legal and moral responsibility to protect and promote human rights and human dignity.

In offering an overview of the program, Atty. Daniel D. Lising, M.D. guided the participants through the two-fold objectives of the program: critical assessment and the exploration of intricate and nuanced situations under the law, as well as the societal impacts of the same. Former Congresswoman Emerenciana “Emmi” A. De Jesus gave a brief lecture on the background of RA No. 11648, its predecessor laws, and the significant points of distinction. She reiterated the need for support from the State in the provision of services and assistance for victim-survivors. Atty. Ma. Sophia Isabella P. De Castro, Attorney III at the Policy Development, Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation Division (PDPMED) of the Philippine Commission on Women, then discussed possible amendments that could be made to existing anti-rape laws, and how other legislative enactments within the country could include anti-rape laws to broaden the scope of prevention. Apart from revisions of Article 266 of the Revised Penal Code to focus on the element of lack of consent, Atty. De Castro recommended the provision of stiffer penalties; implementation of educational programs and awareness campaigns; and other such legislative enactments.

Executive Director of the Center for Women’s Resources, Ms. Cielito “Cham” V. Perez, emphasized that awareness raising should not be limited to issues of rape and sexual violence, but also to the wide range of women’s and human rights, and in recognizing the role women play in our society. She noted that studies show undeniable links between poverty and sexual violence, hence the need to further engage community women to take action to support amendments and hold perpetrators accountable. This was a sentiment echoed by independent gender specialist Mr. Michael A. Pastor, who identified dealing with intersecting vulnerabilities as a gap within all current gender-based legislation. Having done consulting work on sexual reproductive health, gender-based violence prevention, and gender mainstreaming with several government agencies and international organizations, Mr. Pastor highlighted that an inclusion lens must be forwarded, and institutional approaches must be examined to enhance the prevention of rape, particularly during disasters and recovery.

On the other hand, Atty. Rafael Ricalde, Legal Unit Head of the Council for the Welfare of Children, discussed recent legislation for the protection of children. He cited the different challenges for government agencies, such as the lack of manpower; unreported cases; and an uninformed public. Following this, Police Major Shari B. Deseo, Assistant Chief of the Operations Management Division Command Group of the Women and Children Protection Center, spoke on the efforts of law enforcement to prevent and reduce rape cases, as well as the ways forward to strengthen such protection. During the open forum facilitated by UP IHR University Researcher Atty. James Gregory A. Villasis, questions were raised on the effectiveness of legislation in the curbing of rape cases, as well as potential amendments and policy recommendations to further protect women and children.

Finally, Philippine Representative to the ASEAN Commission on Women and Children (ACWC) Professor Elizabeth Aguiling-Pangalangan delivered her closing remarks, expressing gratitude for the contributions and insights shared between the speakers and participants. The forum’s emphasis on generating actionable recommendations was a proactive step towards bridging the gap between legislative intent and on-the-ground impact. Professor Aguiling-Pangalangan also reiterated the need for collective commitment and effort in promoting the rights and dignity of Filipina women.

The UP IHR holds an annual women’s rights forum that discusses timely and pressing social issues. This year’s event was participated in by more than 300 registrants, 130 of whom attended in person. Participants included the Commission on Human Rights, the Commission on Welfare of Children, the Department of Justice, the Department of Education, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the Office of the Solicitor General, Public Attorney’s Office, Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine National Police, American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative, Center for Reproductive Rights, Human Rights and People Empowerment Center, IDEALS, Inc., Philippine Human Rights Information Center, Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau, Women’s Fund Asia, among others.

  • Post category:News
  • Post last modified:April 15, 2024