Context in the Philippines

Local programs

The Philippines have ratified in 1990 the International Convention on Children’s Rights (OHCHR) and adopted laws to protect and promote Human Rights. However, despite a legislative environment favorable to the implementation of public policies, their application remains uneven and suffers from slowness. Hence the urgency to implement prevention, protection and rehabilitation actions on the field. This is what CAMELEON has been doing for 17 years in Iloilo Province, Panay Island, Western Visayas, Philippines.

Landmark

In the Philippines in 2012,

47,5% of Filipinos live on less than €1.52/day
1/3 of the population is less than 14 years old
1,5 million children are not in school
1,5 million children live in the streets
28 children are arrested and imprisoned each day

Sources:
Report on Filipino children’s situation by AKAP-Bata Partylist, 2012
Word Factbook 2013; Transparency International, UN, US State Department.

Sexual abuse of children

In the Philippines, 100 000 children are victims of sexual abuse each year.

More than 50% of abused children are between 10 and 18 years old. Among the victims, one in four is a child under 5 years old. After the abandonment and the negligence, sexual abuse on children is one of the case most processed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Despite the law Anti-Rape of 1997, the most common case of sexual abuse remains rape, followed by cases of incest and touching. The victims of rape are 98% female. One of the alarming figures remains the high rate of cases of incest: 33%.

Most children who are sexually exploited for commercial purposes are victims of prostitution or pornography. However, although the overall number of child abuse cases handled by the DSWD has decreased, cases of child prostitution have increased slightly. Most of the time, it is very difficult to have a clear view of the situation and even more difficult to intervene as bars, prostitution networks and sex tourism are led by influential politicians or individuals (local and foreign) often connected to other criminal networks (drugs, weapons). Likewise, while the total number of cases of cyber-pornography appears to be rather low, it could actually be much higher if victims had complained or asked for help from social services. And this is also the case with child prostitution, cases of sexual abuse and incest. Cyber prostitution is becoming more common in the Philippines, whether in urban or rural areas.

Young girls, primary victims of poverty and exclusion

98% of sexual abuse victims are girls.

The Philippine Council for the Welfare of Children (PCWC), in partnership with UNICEF, published a report in 2008 showing that young girls are the primary victims of sexual abuses. Victims of commercial sexual exploitation are predominantly girls aged 13 to 18, with the youngest girls prostituted by age 10. Under-age girls are the most likely to be infected by STDs and HIV/AIDS. They are also victim of illegal recruitment (especially girls from rural areas), and suffer from sexual discrimination: lack of schooling, labor, prostitution etc.

Year after year, these trends remain unchanged, and the situation has even deteriorated. It is directly linked to a culture of discrimination towards girls and women in Filipino society and a lack of services and equipment to take care of (pre)adolescents, especially girls living in the streets and victims of abuse.

A few key facts to understand

Statistics represent merely the tip of the iceberg, since they are only based on cases reported to the police or other relevant authorities, and not on the actual number of cases. The big challenge lies with all of these non-reported cases that raise the numbers to even more worrying levels. The silence of the victims is intrinsic to the Filipino culture, as it is shameful to report incidents that would “tarnish” the family’s reputation. This is particularly the case regarding incest.

Children’s vulnerability can be explained by factors such as poverty, the influence of alcohol or drugs, gender inequality, the parents look upon their children (they can be considered as property, without opinions, rights or freedom), and the lack of education (especially sexual education). Extreme poverty often causes tensions between family members who – often themselves victims of abuse in their past – trivialize sexual abuse on children in the household. The influence of alcohol and drugs – cited in one out of four cases – is another major contributing factor in domestic violence.

In most cases, the perpetrators of rape are the Filipino children’s fathers or uncles. These men, generally between the ages of 30 and 40, typically do not have regular jobs. Most of the reported cases of incest took place at home when the victim was alone with the perpetrator.

Despite the fact that women have great and heavy responsibilities in the Filipino household, they have no power in decision-making. Men are considered as the strongest sex; it is from them that power comes, confirming the inequality of the sexes. Just as many mothers are dependent, dependent and without recourse, girls are more vulnerable and often abused. Culture dictates that the morality of the family must remain secret and that children must be silent rather than postpone crimes that could scandalize and wreak havoc among relatives. All of these cultural factors lead to the sustained and ongoing existence of child sexual abuse cases in the country. The culture of silence is adopted by most victims who suffer and suffer without saying anything.

In the case of young victims, the lack of general and sexual education is cited as the reason why two out of three children do not report the crime – they are not aware of being raped. This tragedy is reinforced by the fact that the abuse is committed by people they trust and who were supposed to protect them.