MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos who find themselves in emergencies related to violence against women and children (VAWC) gender-based violence (GBV) can now seek immediate help when they call the 911 national emergency hotline.
The justice, social welfare, and interior departments signed a joint memorandum circular (JMC) on Tuesday, December 7, officially enhancing the 911 hotline to be “more accessible and inclusive for victim-survivors of VAWC and GBV.”
“Any woman, victim-survivor, or informant can now call the 911 hotline whenever they find themselves or other people in situations involving VAW or GBV at home, in school, [at] work – anytime, anywhere,” Philippine Commission on Women Chairperson Sandra Montano said at the JMC signing.
Months prior, emergency telecommunicators in the 911 hotline were trained in handling VAWC and GBV cases. Callers can expect them to provide psychological first aid and “survivor-centered care,” and be nonjudgmental while attending to them.
“For far too long, responding to VAWC and GBV cases remains a challenge. There were no immediate, comprehensive, and toll-free hotline services victim-survivors could turn to for support to access government services and prompt response,” the Department of the Interior and Local Government said in a statement.
The 911 hotline is free, and available 24/7.
Not just fire, medical cases for 911
These are examples of crimes related to VAWC and GBV that can be reported to the 911 hotline:
- Physical/domestic abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Emotional or psychological abuse
- Economic abuse
- Verbal abuse
- Hate crimes
According to Montano, the 911 hotline was previously mostly used for fire, police, medical emergencies, search and rescue assistance, and bomb threats. She said the inclusion of VAWC and GBV as the sixth type of case for immediate response is due to the “alarming prevalence of crimes involving women and children victims, and the need to set up more effective and accessible reporting mechanisms.”
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra assured the public that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is committed to providing the people a functional, efficient, and reliable emergency response system for such distress calls.
Guevarra added that the new system will help ease reporting, expedite investigations, and provide quick response and information on VAWC and GBV. The DOJ said this would help “ultimately end the culture of silence surrounding abuse and violence.”
Beyond women and children
VAWC takes many forms – from incest, rape, sexual harassment, to trafficking, among others. “It happens to women because they are women, and all women and girls are vulnerable to VAWC. It is about male power and control over women,” said Nathalie Africa-Verceles, director of the University of the Philippines Center for Women’s and Gender Studies.
With the new 911 response highlighting GBV – and not just VAWC – cases, Filipinos can expect that people of vast sexual orientation, gender, identity, and expression (SOGIE) will be treated as urgently as women and children in distress.
Africa-Verceles said that because lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex individuals do not conform to norms on sexuality, this makes them vulnerable to GBV.
Data from the 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey showed that 41% of women aged 15 to 49 who experienced physical or sexual violence never sought help nor told anyone, while 25% did tell someone, but did not seek help.
The JMC was signed during the national 18-Day Campaign to End Violence Against Women, which began on November 25. – Rappler.com
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