All over the world, women resisted and gradually fought for their rights. On September 17, 1937, Filipino women were granted the right to vote and many rights have been gained since then. According to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, it could take 300 years to achieve equality for all women.
On March 8, we celebrated International Women’s Day and this month Women’s Month in the Philippines. This year’s theme is “Accelerating Equality and Women’s Empowerment”.
Throughout history, men have dominated, abused and enslaved women and children to have sex and rape with impunity at any time. Even children were raped as they are today. Although in the past 40 years, a great awareness about girls’ rights has turned apathy into action to defend the victims of sexual abuse.
A misogynistic attitude of hatred and contempt for women and girls is present in society and institutions where empowered women threaten the male historical patriarchy. Violence and exploitation of women is on the rise, as seen on social media, allegedly led by men like Andrew Tate and his brother. They would be misogynists and blame women for rape.
The brothers were arrested and are being held in Romania on charges of human trafficking, abuse and exploitation of women. Tate was banned on Twitter, but was recently allowed back in by Elon Musk, the new owner. BBC researchers found that Tate’s Twitter followers have risen from 150,000 in November 2022 to an astonishing 5 million followers today. Most of them are young men who share his views and desires to control and dominate women.
There are the brave and courageous young women who fight back against their rapists. Now nearly 19, Angel (not her real name) told her story as a survivor of childhood incest and multiple rape. She recently addressed a gathering at the 49th anniversary of the Preda Foundation, where Ambassador David Hartman of Canada and Ambassador William Carlos of Ireland, Governor Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. of Zambales, senior officials and international observers listened to her story.
She told the silent and determined gathering that when she was 6 years old, she lived in fear after her father raped her one night. She was afraid to tell anyone and buried the memory and hurt and pain. She acted like nothing was wrong.
When she was 8 years old, it happened again. Angel tried to escape, but he caught her and she was raped again. “Why did you do it, Daddy?” she asked him later. “Because I love you, don’t tell anyone or your mother will be hurt,” he replied. She asked, “Is this love?”
Again, like thousands of victims of incest and sexual abuse, Angel buried the memory, afraid to tell others. Then her brother harassed her, and a neighbor friend of the family also came to rape her. After that, her father and brother raped her again several times. They had turned her into a powerless, frightened sex slave. She was afraid of being killed if she told anyone. Somehow, when she was 16, she found the courage and told her mother and begged her to make them stop. She was not believed. Desperate, she thought about suicide, but she couldn’t.
She told the audience that one day she went out of the house, met a kind woman and told her what she had been through. She was rescued by social workers and taken to the Preda Foundation home. There, after a year of affirmation, friendship, and Emotional Release Therapy, she recovered, gained strength, and filed her legal complaint against her abusers.
Her father and brother were prosecuted in Olongapo City Family Court by Fiscal Bernadine Santos and after two long trials were found guilty and sentenced to life in prison by Judge Gemma Theresa Hilario-Logronio.
Justice has finally been served, and now Angel is a strong, empowered young woman who attends school and lives independently, while starting life anew, aided by Preda. The audience applauded with admiration for her bravery.
Abuse of women and children is an ancient evil. With the arrival of Jesus of Nazareth and his advanced teachings on the rights and dignity of women and children, little changed. Institutional religions ignored that teaching and focused on obscure theologizing and waging bloody wars over their dark theologies.
The man from Nazareth treated women with dignity, respect, understanding and declared that they had dignity and equality. He said that children are more important than the elders, scribes, teachers and adults (Matthew 18:1-5). He shocked patriarchal society as he sought to overthrow the unjust, unequal repressive system that degraded women and children as if they were non-persons. A male-dominated society crucified him for his bold teaching that all were equal as “children of God,” his father. The elite killed him, as they do with human and women’s rights activists today. What the man of Nazareth who conquered death taught was so simple: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
He said to respect every human person, especially women and children equally. Love your neighbor as yourself, believe that goodness, truth, action for justice and charity will overcome evil. Those are the basic values of Christianity.
Recognizing women’s equal rights and ridding the Church of abusive clergy is the great challenge facing the institutional Church today. It takes a woman of God to right this terrible wrong. The church hierarchy is against such a leader. So we rely on Pope Francis to follow the advice of three women appointed as his advisers to the influential Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
In the Philippine Church, women have little influence or status due to a conservative hierarchy.
Several congregations of religious sisters are articulate, independent-minded, and serve the people with great devotion, but other diocesan orders have been made servants of the bishops and priests.
In society, women have demanded respect, recognition of their abilities, achievements and intelligence. They have a more important status in a society that respects their dignity and intelligence. Today, women make up 28 percent of the Philippines’ Congress. More needs to be done to make it 50 percent. Yet over the years, through sheer determination and perseverance, they have strengthened those positions and influence and passed laws to bring more freedom, equality and protection to women and children. There are at least 10 laws protecting women’s rights and 37 protecting children.
What is needed is not just belief in the rights of women and children, but action for a change of mind and heart among men and women to respect their dignity and recognize the rights of women and children and enforce the laws that protect them. implement. Faith without action is dead.