This year marks the 102nd annual commemoration of the International Women's Day, with the theme, "A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women."
In his message for the occasion, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon lamented, "We must look back on a year of shocking crimes of violence against women and girls and ask ourselves how to usher in a better future." He cited cases that sparked international outrage, such as the brutal death of a young woman in India.
He went on to say, "Look around at the women you are with. Think of those you cherish in your families and your communities. And understand that there is a statistical likelihood that many of them have suffered violence in their lifetime."
One Pinay's perspective
We certainly recalled the UN Secretary-General's words when we chanced upon a short film by University of the Philippine graduate Arlyn P. Romualdo, who is pursuing a master's degree in Development Communication in the UP Open University. Titled UN/COVER, the piece, which runs for nearly four minutes, tells the story of, in Romualdo's words, "how a victim of physical abuse chooses to deal with her situation."
The understated treatment of the subject belies the gravity of the situation. The sight of the battered woman applying concealer on her bruised face is disturbing enough, but what she does to retaliate against her abusive husband is even more so. (Warning: Spoiler ahead.) She poisons him.
What made her do it
When we asked Romualdo, who made the video (her first ever) for a class, why she picked domestic abuse as her short film subject, she said, "Well, I had to consider the following: the five-minute limit and the subject had to be connected to development. Not that the development bit was imposed by my professor. I mean, the degree I’m pursuing has to do with communication for development, so I think it’s only right that I make development a consideration. Development being an individual’s capacity to achieve his/her full potential. On a bigger scale, development is really the state’s ability to provide the opportunities for its citizens to explore and achieve their potential. Anyway, human rights are a major part of development."
On a more personal note, Romualdo also revealed, "In the various neighborhoods I’ve lived in, I’ve seen and heard verbal and physical abuse—between couples, between siblings, between parent and child. That prompted me to write a vignette in 2007, where a victim of physical abuse talks to herself while taking off her makeup and reveals that she has no intention of stopping the cycle of violence at that point. My idea then was to show that there are women, who, for whatever reason, refuse to fight back. I went back to that vignette and decided that, for the video, I want to show another way of dealing with that situation. This time the protagonist is more empowered with an extreme method of resolving the problem. She’s the exact opposite of my protagonist in the vignette. The idea is not all women who experience physical abuse deal with the problem the same way. Some accept it, some fight back, some trust the justice system, others don’t."
But while her short film may unnerve some people with its drastic ending, Romualdo said, "I certainly don’t advocate murder and eliciting shock wasn’t really my intention. I just wanted to show that sometimes, when victims have had enough, they are capable of committing murder. They believe that their only option is to end violence with violence."
Indeed, decades after the so-called rise of feminism and the emancipation of women, there are those of us who are still in danger of being brutalized even in their own homes.
In a report published by The Philippine Star, this information stood out: "Citing the record of the Women and Children Protection Center of the Philippine National Police, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Corazon 'Dinky' Soliman said that in 2011, some 15,104 cases of domestic violence were reported."
As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized: "Women and girls have a fundamental human right to live free of violence." We're hoping one day that will be true for all Pinays and for women everywhere. Perhaps, we should begin empowering women to be aware of their rights and teaching them how to defend themselves when they are still little girls. That way, they'll have a better chance of not becoming victims. Ever.
Yahoo! SHE Asks: How do you think women can empower and protect themselves from abuse?
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