Senator Hontiveros warns of rise in domestic abuse  during COVID-19 quarantine

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Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday warned against the possible rise of domestic abuse cases in the country due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) enhanced community  quarantine (ECQ).

“The quarantine is difficult for all of us.  But it is a living nightmare for women who are trapped with their abusers behind closed doors,” said Hontiveros.

“Because of the proximity in the home and added stress due to economic hardship brought by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), Filipino women and children who are living with their abusers become more vulnerable to violence,” Hontiveros said as the lockdown is extended until April 30.  “This is extremely worrying,” she added.

Hontiveros, who also serves as Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Gender Equality, and Family Relations, cited global reports on the rising incidence of domestic abuse in cities and countries that have implemented similar measures.

“There is a pattern. For places that have implemented a lockdown, from China to France, there is an increase of domestic violence in cases reported to the authorities,” the Senator said.

The extension of the ECQ is necessary, according to the Senator, but authorities must work doubly-hard to ensure the protection of women and children. “The lockdown should not allow us to become lax in securing the safety of women and children,” Hontiveros said, as she urged the Philippine National Police [PNP] and the Philippine Commission on Women [PCW] to strengthen anti-domestic violence measures.

“The challenge now is to make sure that channels are open and are readily-available to victims of domestic violence,” she furthered.

Hontiveros also urged the PNP to strengthen its ties with local government units [LGUs] and barangays in the campaign against domestic violence during the time of the quarantine. “We need the LGUs, the PNP, and PCW to remain vigilant. At-risk women and children should know that they can ask for help even during quarantine,” the senator added.

Additionally, Hontiveros urged PCW to coordinate with LGUs in setting up a new domestic violence helpline in all barangays. To further protect women and children, the senator also suggested that LGUs consider preparing safehouses for vulnerable women and children. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority’s latest data, an alarming one in four women aged 15 to 49 has experienced sexual, physical, and emotional abuse from a husband or partner.

“There will be a surge of domestically-abused Filipino women if we turn a blind eye. We must take all necessary actions to stop any form of violence within the family,” said Hontiveros.

“Those who are living with domestic abusers are suffering from multiple forms of trauma during this pandemic. During this very difficult time of COVID-19, let us work harder in keeping our  women and children safe,” concluded Hontiveros./Stacy Ang

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