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‘PHL must focus on needs of sexual-violence victims in areas torn by conflict’

Only 5 percent of government strategies and plans are focused on conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) committed against women in the Philippines, according to United Nations (UN) Women.

A paper commissioned by UN Women and the government of the United Kingdom noted that the majority, or around 80 percent of those priorities in the Philippine National Action Plans on Women, Peace and Security (NAPs-WPS) were strategic. The rest were practical actions, such as addressing health and psychosocial needs, among others.

“In the Philippine NAPs, the opposite is the case. The majority of actions related to CRSV are at the strategic level. While this will work to promote longer-term changes, the day-to-day needs of victims/survivors must be addressed if those longer-term rights are to be availed of and fulfilled,” the study read.

Data also showed that only 49 percent of NAPs-WPS in Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines and Timor-Leste were focused on CSRV.

These actions, UN Women said, are focused on legal, livelihoods, security, psychosocial, health, and transitional justice in Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines and Timor-Leste.

However, around 24 percent of the help CSRV victims received were on the legal aspect; 22 percent on livelihoods; and 20 percent on security.

Only 16 percent and 10 percent of the actions are focused on the psychosocial and health, respectively, of the victims themselves. Actions to attain transnational justice are even less, at 6 percent.

“The provision of urgent, interim and longer-term health and psychosocial care and services is of utmost priority for survivors and, yet, is one of the weaker areas of actions included within the plans,” UN Women said.

UN Women said CSRV refers to incidents of sexual violence against women and men, girls, or boys in conflict or post-conflict areas.

These include incidences that occurred in the Philippines, such as sexual slavery; women captured and held in detention and experiencing forced stripping and nudity, sexual torture and assault, mutilation of sexual organs, among others; and forced into marriages by soldiers.

UN Women’s data showed that in some cases in the Philippines, girls were forced into early marriages to protect them from rape.

In the Philippines these incidents stem from the country’s experience of several armed conflicts since its independence in 1946 and the period of martial law between 1972 and 1981.

“There is emerging evidence of the sexual violence experienced by women and girls in this region at the hands of security forces,” the report read.

“This has included acts such as killings, targeted sexual violence and abuse by soldiers, including sexual slavery and mass rape in conflict-affected area. Girls as young as 7 years of age were raped by state forces,” it added.

The report also stated that the abuse of women continued in evacuation areas where there is a lack of secure bathing and dressing areas. It added that this also increased the level of domestic violence in these areas.

UN Women also said some women who became pregnant as a result of being raped were forced to marry their perpetrators who would later abandon them.

Further, the report said, women whose husbands were killed due to the conflict were unable to assume legal ownership of their land which they relied on for their livelihood.

“Women experience multiple forms of sexual harm, including mutilation of sexual and reproductive organs, cutting off of breasts, mutilation of reproductive organs and cutting open pregnant women’s wombs,” the report stated.

“Women were also forced to have sex with husbands in front of soldiers, some were abducted and did not return, others who returned and/or survived these assaults live with the stigma,” it added.

UN Women said there is a need to address the social, security, legal, health and economic impacts that multiply and sustain the repercussions of CSRV in women and girls globally.

Attention should also be given to children victims/survivors of CSRV, including those who were born of rape.

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