This is a speech I wrote for a forum in UP Manila. I wanted to share it for those who want a closer look into the real issues of human rights in our country and how it affects our people.
We all need to do our part.
Let’s do an experiment.
I would like you all to look at the people sitting next to you. The chances are they’re probably someone you know. I want you to think about how you would feel if that person told you that they had been raped.
How would you feel?
Angry? Sad? Scared? Confused?
Now this time I want you to find a person in the room that you have never met before. I want you to look at that person and think what you would feel if THAT person told you they had been raped.
You probably wouldn’t care too much would you?
Herein lies our problem.
You see, in the world today we have been made to believe that very few things matter; our families, our careers, our homes and arguably the most important in Filipino society, our “name” or reputation. In fact, we spend so much time worried about how people view us that we have mastered the art of ‘the selfie’ (still concerns me that we were named selfie capital of the World, ‘selfies’ were declared a mental disorder and yet we still haven’t seemed concerned that our people have a mental disorder), and we have masterfully perfected the way to manipulate the truth to make sure we are never exposed and bring shame on our families.
In the Philippines we have taught the ignorant to be gloriously defiant about their ignorance, the attitude being that if you have an opinion about something and are bullheaded enough about it, people will think you are smart and take what you say as the truth, even if your logic has no bearing. If you will, Filipino’s have become masters of talking their way out of things, with full confidence and straight faced, convinced of their own flawed truths and this attitude has unfortunately carried over into areas of our society that desperately need more than just band aid and superficial solutions. We avoid conflict and so all those who want to get away with bad behavior have a very easy way out, as long as they are steadfast in their lies, no one will question them far enough to pick apart the truth we so desperately need.
In many ways, we cannot handle the truth. We are sensitive about the problems we have in our country, many people defending the government and infrastructure as times that the Philippines is improving, but is the improving situation of the elite in our country the scale on which we base our growth? If we go outside, even here at a school where people pay a lot of money to come to, there are beggars on the street corner, children begging for food, people being robbed. Let’s not deny that the QOL or ‘QUALITY OF LIFE’ for many of our people is sub human. Very few of us in this room could survive the kind of circumstances our people endure in the streets today. Yet who has really done anything about it?
We have become indifferent. As a nation, we have learned to be so self involved in our little bubbles that we have forgotten the power we have as a collective. As a whole, we have created the catastrophe that Manila has become. We sit in traffic for hours on end, ten minutes of rain means that our cars could be filled with water at any time, our streets are lined with garbage and still people walk the streets and drop cigarette butts, tissues, throw cans and many other things into the streets and river and expect someone else to take responsibility for the problems that arise from clogged drainage. Garbage is also one of the LEAST of our issues, and no one cares about THAT, as simple as it is, where are the anti littering campaigns? Who is starting the initiative for recycling and educating the masses on proper disposal of their garbage? I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only on who has come across a dirty diaper in the ocean.
One of our more major issues became very apparent to me last year is of course, rape. Do you know how difficult it is to file a rape case? Let me break it down for you.
Recently I was asked to help a young woman who had been raped by her father. Not just once, but many times since she was 15 years old. She is not the only person he raped either. He raped her older sister, her younger sister and their cousin. He is also holding her 8 month old baby hostage, a baby that he previously hit when this young woman refused to have sex with him. When she became pregnant through another man her father told her, “Why did you get pregnant by someone else? Bakit ka nagpagalaw sa iba? Ako lang ang pwede.”
So she ran away and asked for help. Just so happens, these people knew how to get in touch with me and I got to talk to her. She is a very brave young woman. Despite her own fear, she wants to file a case against her father. So what challenges does this young lady face?
Let’s start at home. First off, her mother is protecting her father. She knows that he is a rapist and that he has raped all of her daughters, but she still stands by his side. This is incredibly common here. Women who are abused have a hard time leaving their abusers and are afraid that if the man of the house is taken away they will bring shame on their family (surprise, surprise), that they will have no future because nobody will take care of them and the children, they need to protect the sanctity of marriage and have some deluded sense of loyalty to their abuser.
If that wasn’t enough, her siblings don’t want her to file a case against their father. Yep, that’s right, the two girls he also raped don’t want their father to go to jail. They are ok with the fact that they have escaped the home and don’t care if anyone else falls victim to this man, as long it’s not them, just leave the situation alone. He’s still their “father” daw.
So you’re alone, your family doesn’t support your decision and we haven’t even gotten to the legal aspect of this. This woman is lucky because she has some support and people who are willing to help her file a case, but in a normal situation, finding a lawyer and having the funds to pay for the years long process that the justice system is famous for having here is close to impossible for many victims, especially if they are minors living with the abuser.
Let’s stick with this woman in question though. She wants to file a case, so she went to go and get a medico legal or ‘rape kit’. They told her that because she had had a baby, the kit wouldn’t be effective in proving that she had been raped. Let me state that she had this procedure done because it has been the protocol in filing a rape case. This means, she went into a room with a stranger who had to poke and prod her around in her vagina, only to find that it wouldn’t help anyway. Let me also state at this point that according to the law, a medico legal can help but is NOT absolutely necessary in court because it cannot prove if there was contact between genitals which also constitutes rape. So we are putting victims through this process without the assurance that it will actually help their case.
Next, her sisters don’t want to file, and they won’t stand up in court. She will be the only one testifying against her father. What does she face in court? A little known fact that was brought to my attention last year is that our court system does not have mandatory briefings on rape and rape culture. This means that unless you are a minor and go to family court, where fortunately they DO have briefings, You will go to ordinary court. Ordinary court is predominantly occupied by men and these men are not given briefings on rape at all. They rule against victims with blatant rape culture in their dismissals stating things such as ‘Why didn’t the victim bite the mans penis off’ or ‘Why was the victim wearing such clothing,’ and that there was ‘no probable cause for rape’. What is probable cause for rape exactly? Isn’t the fact that a man wants to have sex with a woman and she says no and he decides to do it anyway probable cause enough? A man’s bruised ego can be cause enough for him to want to take something that is not his, we all know that.
We are sending rape victims to slaughter. Not only do we not have systems in place to aid them psychologically after the event, which can cause trauma equivalent to that of veterans of war and makes it very hard to speak up, we have a culture that knows nothing of the rules of sex and consent because we chose to pretend that sex is not going on and that it should not be spoken about. If that wasn’t enough, we are sending them into the arms of the justice system who has pretty much taken a back seat on defending our country against rapists, ignoring calls from the UN to implement systems to educate our courts about rape to help victims achieve justice and letting rapist after rapist go free. We statistically have a 3% success rate when it comes to prosecuting rapists.
And the problem stems from the fact that when you looked at a stranger across the room and thought about them being raped, as much as you don’t really want to admit it, you didn’t really care. Sure you felt sort of bad but in reality, you would probably walk away and think, ‘Someone else closer to them will deal with it.’
In truth, we are all close to it. Rapists hide in plain sight, very good at pretending and standing steadfast in their lies so that no one will question them. The system is flawed and they know it. They know they can rape and get away with it. A lot of them in the province don’t even care enough to hide the fact that they enjoy raping, such is the lax state of our justice system. They feel no remorse because no one has ever made them face the consequences of their actions.
If the justice system wont do it, who will?
That is the question everyone has been avoiding for so long. When you ask the government about whose fault something is, they all point fingers at somebody else. Our nation follows its leaders and does the same about our social issues. We all point fingers and look the other way because we know just how much damage needs to be undone.
They asked me to speak about being an advocate for women, but I have realized that in being an advocate for women, I must be an advocate for PEOPLE because we cannot help our women unless we help everyone understand why they need help in the first place. Not just our women, our PEOPLE have been abused. Not just sexually, but mentally and physically as well. They have learned to fight against adversity but they fight against the wrong things. We know that if Filipinos care they have the ability to make great changes, but we have taught them to care about trivial things, Kim Kardashian’s ass, twerking, noon time shows and teleseryes. They will come in hoards to defend their favourite artista, but ask them to stand up for themselves and fight for their own rights and they will go quiet. No one has ever taught them what it means to fight for your rights as a human being. Imagine if we could redirect the attention of the people to the issues that actually need their attention and make them understand that if they do not fight, they will be affected by them sooner or later.
We always turn a blind eye. Unless it happens to us, it is not our problem. The fact of the matter is, it is everyone’s problem. Rapists live among us and like everything else we have become desensitized. But how long do you think you can live next door to a rapist before he comes for someone you know? There are 19 million people in Manila. You really believe that there are no rapists out there?
If we do not get people to see that the problems that we face affect all of us, there will be no change. Unless men can see that raping women is bad and just how traumatic the experience is, how can they understand the gravity of the situation? Unless men start to get angry about other men disrespecting and abusing women, how can the women who cannot fight for themselves stand up? Unless men understand what rape is for women, how can they understand what it must feel like for the many MEN who are raped every year and live in shame WORSE than women?
As women, we have lost our sense of unity, lost our pride in ourselves and instead compete with each other, basing our own value on the flaws and benefits of others, we have forgotten that many of us fight because we have been made to feel weak. Many of us forget what it is to feel compassion for ourselves in a world that has treated us so harshly. The repercussion of years of repression is much like a volleyball being held under water; eventually when you let go, it violently bounces back up the other way. Our anger towards societies dismissal of our feelings has made us emotional and on many occasions it works against us. The rise of feminism has empowered women but also made them work against us, in times where they make over zealous claims such as being able to claim that drunken consensual sex can be declared rape if you change your mind the next day. These attitudes stem from a desperation to be acknowledged and heard, the scars of our painful realities needing to be addressed.
But why do we need feminism? Aren’t we in fact only looking for the same thing that men want which is our basic human rights? Aren’t we all, as human beings, involved in the fight for human rights?
For many people they cannot understand the fight against rape because they have not been raped. They can however, understand the need for human rights.
Think about this. In the future many of you will want to have kids. You will want to protect them. Let’s say, your teenage daughter goes to school and her P.E. teacher touches her up during class. You weren’t there, you couldn’t stop it. You can’t monitor everything that the school does. So you complain. The school might help you, unless they don’t want their reputation to be tarnished by scandal. The law might help you, but if your daughter doesn’t have fingerprints on her ass, if he wasn’t caught by CCTV and if he says in court he didn’t do it? Chances are, you probably wont win and that guy will go out and be able to touch more kids.
Do you see what I’m saying?
Rape and abuse are just a small fraction of this too. If no one cares enough about something as grave as rape, what about other infractions on our human rights that no one is paying attention to? The Philippines is already in violation of CEDAW, an international treaty described as an international bill of rights for women. We were advised to remedy the situation but this request has been ignored, proven by the fact that last year several high profile rape cases were dismissed with rape culture heavily laden in the dismissals. We have several known abusers and rapists on national television and we have all accepted that this is the way life is. These are not even the only issues that are being ignored! The poverty in our streets, the lack of education and resources, the ridiculous corruption in every faction of bureaucracy and blatant stealing from our taxes, the horrendous traffic and LYING TO OUR FACES and yet we all have sat quietly and nodded, as long as someone feeds us a good lie, who really cares right? Ignorance is bliss when you’re sitting in traffic for 5 hours to get home after work because your government couldn’t give two shits about you.
Who’s problem is it if it is not ours?
WE NEED TO START CARING. That is the beginning of anything and everything and we need to start somewhere. Our people need education of all kinds, we need to start having the conversations that we have vehemently been avoiding and breaking down the barriers society has built to hide the truth. Human rights are everybody’s right and if we don’t fight for those who need us to fight for them, how can we expect them to fight for anyone else? The only change we will achieve is in unity and to become united we must all see the truth.
Why is it when you looked at a stranger and thought about them being raped did you feel more indifference than anything else? Are their human rights any less important than yours or your friends? This is what we need to start remembering. If we know that Filipinos are not good at standing up for themselves but great at standing up for others then let’s start doing exactly what we’re good at. Stand for those who cannot fight on their own. If you are strong and never had to fear anything, then be strong for those who have been oppressed and made to feel afraid. When you fight for those who have been oppressed in your country, you are also fighting for your own rights to be acknowledged and heard. We have all been ignored for too long. Our own justice system is still operating under archaic systems and if we cannot even have our justice system protect our basic human rights then who do we really have apart from ourselves?
It’s time that we were heard.
When I ended my conversation with the girl who is going to file a case against her father, she was crying and felt intimidated by her whole family being against her. I asked her:
“What do you want to do?”
She told me:
I told her, “You are the one who is right in this situation. You stand by the truth and never let anyone tell you that you are wrong. You must educate those around you because you are the only one who knows the truth. It will be difficult but you must fight, if not for yourself then for your sisters, your mother and your baby who have all been hurt by this man. I will be here to support you.”
Despite the difficulties she knows she is facing by herself, she is still fighting.
I do not fight for other people because I am any more selfless than any of you. I fight for others because when I could not fight for myself, others helped me fight and now I am doing the same. Whether you realize it or not, at the end of the day, we are fighting for the same rights, the rights that should have been upheld by the law but aren’t. When the day comes that you have to fight for your own rights, for whatever reason it is, wouldn’t you want to know that others would support you in your fight? Or would you be content to be one voice fighting against many in a World where nobody cares about your problems and only focus on their own?
We cannot be heard unless we speak. If you know the truth then SPEAK IT and be heard. The truth can only be spread by those who are strong enough to face it and brave enough to defend it. You do not need to be an activist to help us change the World we live in. All you have to do is care.