The persistence of issues like poverty and violence is what drives militant group Gabriela Women’s Party to continue fighting for women’s rights, the group said as the country celebrates National Women’s Month, which is observed every March.
“Over the years, issues such as poverty, lack of job security and violence continue to affect women. If there has been any improvement in our situation, it’s the fact that more women are joining the fight against these problems. As our numbers grow, our chances of winning that fight strengthens,” said Gabriela deputy secretary general Misty Lorin.
Lorin said these issues persist because of the impunity of those who take advantage of women. “There is violence at home, and there are abuses carried out, alarmingly, by people in power such as soldiers and police officers—and victims have such a hard time getting the justice they deserve. Most of the time, the offender does not receive any punishment,” she said.
When it comes to job security, Lorin said marginalized women usually get “low-skilled, low-paying” jobs, and usually fall under the “informal sector,” such as women who work as household help.
“It is the women who usually get odd jobs such as binding notebooks or placing adhesive tape on plastic bags,” she said.
In the run-up to the celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, Gabriela joined Lila Pilipina, the organization of comfort women, in holding protests at the embassies of Japan and the United States on Monday against the US-Japan military alliance in the Asia-Pacific region, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and an impending defense pact between the Philippines and Japan.
Lorin called the agreements “an attack on Philippine sovereignty,” and said they could bring about more cases of violence and harassment against women since cases of prostitution tend to rise in areas where military bases are located, such as Angeles City in Pampanga and Olongapo City in Zambales.
Lila Pilipina executive director Richie Extremadura cited how Japan “remains unapologetic [and deaf] to the demands of our comfort women for recognition and restitution, yet readily expands huge resources and political force behind a costly war preparation.”
“Comfort women will keep reminding [President] Aquino and the next President that they have blood on their hands if they keep pushing for this agreement,” Extremadura said.