Nine of 10 complaints on gender-based violence (GBV) against women and girls with disabilities involved rape, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said.
This was disclosed by the CHR in its written statement for the “47th Session of the Human Rights Council: Annual Full-Day Discussion on the Human Rights of Women” held last July 5 and 6.
“Violence and discrimination are aggravated in the context of women and girls with disabilities who also confront the burden of overcoming physical barriers, stereotyping, and social exclusion,” the CHR said.
It said in its statement that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic only magnified their vulnerabilities, since it compounded existing gender inequalities and increased the risks of GBV and sexual exploitation and abuse.
“Pre-existing physical barriers became more burdensome with containment and quarantine measures imposed by the government. Such measures deprive women and girls with disabilities of their right to leave the household to escape violent or abusive situations or to access protective orders and other essential services,” the CHR noted.
It said that while the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has issued an advisory in March 2020 reminding barangay offices to ensure the functionality of their violence against women (VAW) desks, there were “barriers” to reporting cases of abuse and violence.
Among these “barriers,” the CHR said, were reports of refusal by the barangay VAW desks to issue Barangay Protection Orders (BPOs) and advise of women’s desks personnel to file their complaints only after the easing of quarantine restrictions.
“If the government considered more carefully GBV in their COVID-19 response, proper measures could have been placed to ensure access to GBV reporting, access to shelter and psychosocial services and transportation, and containment measures exemptions for women survivors fleeing unsafe spaces,” the CHR said.
“Gender-based planning could have also led to continuous and uninterrupted access to sexual and reproductive health services and the provision of women’s gendered needs in government-issued relief packages,” it added.
To improve the government’s services for women with disabilities, the CHR recommended that local government units (LGUs) should establish localized temporary shelters and provide financial and transport support for survivors of violence.
The LGUs should also update their referral mechanisms, improve protocols to cater remote assistance, and set up hotlines for reporting and psychosocial counseling.