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29 November 2006

State Violence is Violence Against Women

Every year, women’s movements all over the world commemorate November 25 to December 10 as 16 days of activism to end violence against women. This activism is inspired by the tragic death of the three Mirabal sisters labelled as Mariposas (the Butterflies) in the Dominican Republic on 25 November 1960 during the dictatorial rule of General Raphael Leonides Trujillo. Twenty one years later, on 25 November 1981, women from Latin America gathered in indignation in Bogota, Colombia to declare November 25 as International Day to End Violence Against Women.

Women’s movements all over the world has taken this occasion as a period to register and resist the many faces of violence against women. Violence against women continues to be a daily experience despite the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) by the UN on December 18, 1979.  

In the Philippines, GABRIELA as a national women’s alliance actively brought this campaign in the streets, plazas, factories, schools, churches, offices and communities to educate and mobilize women on the many forms of violence as a result of the prevailing feudal-patriarchal and western-decadent culture in the country being perpetrated by the state.  At present state violence is felt through heightened political repression which is happening to its worst through execution of women, their husbands and children whose known involvement is promoting the rights and interest of the people. The women victims are mostly peasants involved in struggles to defend their rights to land, life and natural resources.

Since Mrs. Arroyo assumed power in 2001, there are 83 women and 54 children killed. Most of them are known leaders or members of organizations affiliated with GABRIELA, Gabriela Women’s Partylist and other progressive people’s organizations. Most of the children are killed during massacre of families and communities in the course of militarization. Some of them are unborn, who get killed with mothers assassinated by death squads of the state. Adding to this appalling data are cases of enforced disappearances. 27 women and 10 children are victims of enforced disappearance since 2001. Their bodies have not been located and the possibility of them killed is high. Perpetrators are no other but members of the state’s police, military forces and para-military groups. Disappearance is a torturing incident for relatives and friends  knowing no end of their suffering. It’s a relief for families to find the remains of their relative and provide them a decent burial.

In the Cordillera, the political assassination of  Pepe Manegdeg, Albert Terredano, Rafael Bangit and Alyce Omengan Claver have left 3 widows and a widower and orphaned 11 children with age ranging from 3 to 17.

We take this year’s celebration to gather women, men and the youth to a forum to discuss State Violence as Violence Against Women. This will be held in the University of the Philippines College Baguio at 2:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon on 5 December 2006.

This will also be an occasion to launch the Remember Alyce Campaign which is Innabuyog’s campaign to stop further violence against women through political persecution and killings under GMA’s Oplan Bantay Laya (Freedom Watch). This  is Innabuyog’s campaign to make the public aware of the immense impact of political killings to women and their communities. Hence, the important involvement of women in the quest for justice for women victims and other victims of political persecution and execution. Alyce Omengan Claver,  is the first indigenous woman victim of political killing from the Cordillera. She sustained multiple gunshots when their family car was ambushed by Arroyo’s death squad aboard a van in the morning of 31 July 2006. Her husband, Dr. Chandu Claver and 11 year old daughter survived. Alyce is well remembered as a student activist, a volunteer staff of the Manila office of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance in the 80s, a dependable sister, mother, wife, woman and human rights defender who is ever willing to extend her heart and hand for activists and people’s organizations.

The provincial chapters of Innabuyog will be holding similar educational fora jointly with people’s organizations and justice and peace formations in the provinces.

Only desperate and insecured regimes, like that of Arroyo, resort to manslaughter to be able to hold on to power. As we call for an end to the senseless political killings in this year’s 16 days of activism to end violence against women,  we should carry out our task in educating, organizing and mobilizing women and pursue with ousting Mrs. Arroyo from Malacanang.