Senator-elect Raffy Tulfo, who ranked third overall in the May 9 senatorial race, has proposed a “genderless” approach on the issue of violence in the family.
“[H]alimbawa, si mister ay nanakit, meron siyang mga katapat na parusa sa Violence Against Women and Children. Eh pano naman kung si mister ang sinaktan? Wala tayong violence against men,” Tulfo said in a May 12 interview with GMA News’ Unang Balita.
(For example, the husband hurts [his wife], he has a corresponding punishment in the Violence Against Women and Children [Act]. But what if the husband is the one who was hurt? We don’t have violence against men.)
“So I will make violence in the family as genderless,” he added.
What does this proposal really entail? Here are three things you need to know:
1. Can domestic violence be ‘genderless’?
“Domestic violence and any form of gender-based violence cannot be genderless,” said Nathalie Africa-Verceles, associate professor and director of the University of the Philippines (UP) Center for Women’s and Gender Studies.
“Hindi parallel ‘yung phenomenon ng domestic violence against men [with] domestic violence against women,” she said, “because of [the] patriarchy,” which is the system of male dominance and female subordination.
Gender-based violence or GBV is any harmful act “directed at an individual based on their gender,” which could include sexual, physical, mental, and economic harm committed in public or private spaces, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
In the 1993 UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (VAW), the UN General Assembly recognized that gender-based violence against women “is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women.”
VAW includes physical, sexual, and psychological forms of violence such as:
- intimate partner violence (battering, psychological abuse, marital rape, femicide);
- sexual violence and harassment (rape, forced sexual acts, unwanted sexual advances, child sexual abuse, forced marriage, street harassment, stalking, cyber- harassment);
- human trafficking (slavery, sexual exploitation);
- female genital mutilation; and
- child marriage.
Locally, one of the most prevalent forms of VAW involves those committed by an intimate partner: a husband, former husband, live-in partner, boyfriend or girlfriend, or fiancé, with whom the woman has had a sexual or dating relationship, according to the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW).
Hence, Congress approved in 2004 Republic Act (RA) 9262 or the Violence Against Women and Children Act, which penalizes a person proven to have abused or committed violent acts against a woman who is one’s wife, former wife, with whom the person has or had a sexual or dating relationship, or with whom one has a common child.
“The basis for this law protecting women and their children is the context that most reported cases are related to intimate partner violence and usually, the victims are women,” the PCW said in an email to VERA Files Fact Check.
In a 2013 decision, the Supreme Court affirmed that RA 9262 “does not violate the guarantee of equal protection of the laws.” The high court wrote:
“Societal norms and traditions dictate people to think men are the leaders, pursuers, providers, and take on dominant roles in society while women are nurturers, men’s companions and supporters, and take on subordinate roles in society. This perception leads to men gaining more power over women. With power comes the need to control to retain that power. And VAW is a form of men’s expression of controlling women to retain power.”
Source: Supreme Court E-Library, G.R. No. 179267, June 25, 2013
2. How many report domestic violence in the Philippines?
Data obtained by VERA Files Fact Check from the Philippine National Police Crime Information Reporting and Analysis System (PNP CIRAS) as of May 24 show more than 8,900 women suffered a form of domestic violence, as defined by RA 9262, in 2021.
On the other hand, only 21 incidents of violence committed against male victim-survivors by family relatives or intimate partners were recorded by the PNP, as of May 20, that same year.
The PNP Women and Children Protection Center (WCPC) said the “few number” of reports of violence against men compared to that against women may be attributed to “non-reporting of incidents by alleged men-victims brought about by masculinity issues and fear of disclosure.”
“Men tend to worry they would not be believed or that they would be perceived as less masculine if they report abuse,” said Police Brig. Gen. Edgar Cacayan, chief of the PNP WCPC.
The PNP WCPC handles cases of gender-based violence, violence against women and children – including domestic violence – trafficking in persons, children in conflict with the law, and children at risk. All other cases are “attended to by the general investigation unit of the PNP.”
Police Col. Joy Tomboc, head of the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Division of the PNP WCPC, noted that the current data do not indicate the gender identities of victim-survivors and offenders, but some reports do involve members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
3. Why does it matter?
While there is no specific law that punishes violence against men, Cacayan explained that a man who is abused by a woman may file a complaint or case before the general investigation office of the PNP under the Revised Penal Code (RPC), “depending on the acts committed.”
However, the RPC covers only physical abuse, according to Tomboc.
The PCW pointed out that men can “have their recourse in other laws,” such as the Anti-Rape Law (RA 8353), Anti-Sexual Harassment Act (RA 7877), Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 (RA 9208), or the Safe Spaces Act (RA 11313) that “apply to both men and women.”
The WCPC recognizes that men can be victims of abusive relationships, but admits that the stereotype of masculinity is “hard to work against.”
For Africa-Verceles, whose research focuses on gender and development, a “thorough analysis” and more data are needed to understand the phenomenon of violence against men before any recommendation or revision in existing laws can be made.
“Dahil ibang-iba siya, ibang-iba rin dapat ang policy intervention diyan,” she said. (Because [violence against men] is very different, the policy intervention must be different too.)
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United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Gender-based Violence
United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women
United Nations, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
Official Gazette of the Philippines, Republic Act No. 9262
Philippine Commission on Women, Violence Against Women
Supreme Court E-Library, G.R. No. 179267, June 25, 2013
Philippine Commission on Women, Personal communication (email), May 16, 2022
Philippine National Police Women and Children Protection Center (email), May 20, 2022
Dr. Nathalie Africa-Verceles, Personal communication (call), May 20, 2022
(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)