Tag Archives: Philippines

Gender Sensitivity in the Philippines

We arrived in Siquijor on Monday, a nearby island. We were speaking at a conference at Siquijor State College. The conference, “Gender Sensitivity and Understanding Women and Girl’s Rights” was really the first of its kind for the college, and even for the region. One of the staff members was telling us during the lunch break that they haven’t had a conversation like this at their school before. Talking about domestic violence, trafficking, sexual harassment and women’s rights should not be something that is not talked about – anywhere. 

The students obviously had questions about these topics, and many students wrote their questions down to be read aloud during the open forum. One girl asked about filing a law suit against her boyfriend for contracting an STD from him. Another student asked whether homosexual males are often trafficked. They had many questions about why trafficking happens, what is considered sexual assault, and what the resources are for trafficking victims. There was not a shortage of good questions to answer and expand on. 

During lunch we had the conversation that just because people aren’t already talking about these things doesn’t mean they’re not happening. These students may not be hearing about sexual harassment in the classroom, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening, As statistics would go, many students in the room probably come from a home where violence is present. For them to hear about the laws that protect them is important, empowering even.   

To stand in an auditorium on the other side of the world and talk about these issues certainly provides a global perspective on gender issues. No country  is alone in combatting these crimes – all too often targeted at women. Women and men both need to take responsibility for these outcomes and realize that until we combat these crimes together, unified as a people, then there will also be gender biases and a skewed victim pool. 

The conference was incredibly successful, and we were so honored to participate.

Similar and Different

Come to the other side of the world, literally, and you just might realize that law students come from a similar mold. Granted, Americans might tip the sarcasm scale slightly more than Filipinos, but you’d also be surprised how much we have in common.

We attended a law school “Acquaintance Party” this past weekend, and we were surprised both by our similarities and our differences. Here, law school is 4 years. Rough, I know. So, each year considers themselves a “batch.” Each batch was responsible for some sort of performance as “intermission” for the evening. The 1Ls did a sort of model walk and introduction of each student, the 2L girls did a Bollywood number while the 2L guys danced to Bruno Mars and stripped down to their boxers, no joke. Oh, and did I mention that law school faculty and staff were also at this party? Don’t worry, they thought this was hilarious.

The 3Ls and 4Ls both shot a video that they played, with the 4Ls singing “Let’s Cram” to the tune of Gaga’s “Let’s Dance.” Written and (performed first by students at NYU). It really was funny.

The evening concluded with a host of interesting games that honestly, law students at our school wouldn’t likely play with our professors in the room. Crude and vulgar, but wildly entertaining. Students and professors were equally dying of laughter.

The law students here have been more than welcoming, quick to make jokes about stress, alcohol, studying and briefs. Felicia and I will be giving a lecture this evening on our law school experience, and honestly, I think the students will hate us when they learn that our studies are only for 3 years, and with about half of the requirements of their schooling. They are required to take between 18 and 20 credits each semester, and every class is required. From taxation to commercial litigation, they take every subject in preparation for their bar exam, which nationally has about a 30% passage rate. Not too promising.

We continue to enjoy our time here. We have met many wonderful people curious about our studies and our anti-trafficking experience. We will be attending a conference in the next few days on gender issues here in the Philippines – issues none too foreign to Arizona and the U.S.

The more people we meet the more we realize we have in common. They always ask us, “Is domestic violence a problem in the U.S.?” “What about trafficking?” Yes and yes. These are global issues, and we are all working to better educate the community, to work toward prevention and to prosecute the offenders. It’s nice to know that oceans apart, we are striving for the same things.

Assessing the Situation

When spending time in a new place with a new culture, it’s best to spend some time being an observer, before jumping in with ideas and suggestions. You have to understand the people, the problems facing them, and the remedies they’ve attempted in order to offer any sort of suggestion of your own – or else, who are we as outsiders to interject or insist we have the answer?

Thus, we’ve spent the last few days trying to take things in, trying to hear from those on the front lines, judges, prosecutors, victim advocates, to understand what they’re dealing with. They might learn a few things from us, but we will learn a great deal from them in the process.

The judicial system here requires a great deal of patience. Months could pass between each stage of pre-trial and trial. Months that can lead to exhaustion of everyone involved, and even witness bribery, fright, and manipulation. The attorneys that we’ve talked to have done their best to work inside this system. They understand the importance of victim advocates in witness fatigue, the importance of a constant encouragement and supporter who will go with them through this lengthy process and prompt them to continue.

Gender Watch Against Violence and Exploitation (G-WAVE) is hard at work here in a society that has yet to realize that women too have rights, and need protection until such equality is realized. We met a Family Court Judge yesterday, one of two in the province, that knows all too well the difficulties facing women in this society. She told us a few stories from her years here as a prosecutor, handling many disturbing and emotional rape cases, cases where young girls were often raped or molested by their fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, and other family members. She said that men here seem “sex-crazed” and they are dealing with the aftermath of this.

We have already been in the courtroom a few times for different stages of rape cases. Selecting photos for evidence, the pre-trial hearing where evidence was being submitted, what was supposed to be the direct examination of the victim but was postponed, again.

This morning we sifted through affidavits of an ongoing trafficking case which has yet to bring the accused to justice. Time has been an influence, tampered evidence, and witness bribery has kept this case from the fair trial it deserves. The system here has no juries, so a judge is left to weigh the evidence singlehandedly and there are definitely some judges more partial to males than others.

Tomorrow we will assist in getting some new photos to submit for evidence. A rape that took place in a shrouded area, hard to photograph. We will also be giving a lecture at a local college on the issue of domestic sex trafficking. Already, our time has been so enriching and fulfilling.