BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Incest on the rise

This news broke my heart. To me, incest and sexual abuse are the worst things that can happen to children.

I still dream of a world free of these crimes because as Sydney Sheldon once said, we don't inherit the world from our parents, we borrow it from the children.

Incest on the rise with feminization of overseas labor
By Veronica Uy
Last updated 06:16pm (Mla time) 03/09/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- As more Filipino mothers leave for work abroad, incest between a daughter and the father who are left behind has become an emerging social problem, a non-government organization said Friday.

However, the Kanlungan Center said the scandalous nature of incest has kept the problem hidden despite its growing seriousness.

Loida Bernabe, program officer of Kanlungan's direct support and development program, acknowledged receiving only one call for help on an incest case but added she believes the problem is more common than believed.

“Nangyayari talaga ito dahil malayo sa pamilya at ang tingin sa mga anak ay pag-aari [It really happens because of the distance between spouses and because children are viewed as possessions],” she said.

She spoke of a runaway maid in Singapore who wrote to Kanlungan September last year about her 13-year-old daughter’s account of being raped by her father.

The mother said she had already asked a relative to take the girl away but worried about her nine-year-old daughter, who with her six-year-old son, remained with her husband.

Bernabe said she referred the case to the archdiocese in Mindanao to which the overseas Filipino worker’s (OFW) hometown belonged.

On Thursday, International Women's Day, Senator Pia Cayetano also called public attention to “an emerging problem in labor-exporting countries like the Philippines.”

The senator, who returned recently from New York where she represented the Philippine Senate at the 51st Session of the Commission for the Status of Women, noted that older daughters of women OFWs are made to take on the roles left by their mother, sometimes as “substitute spouses.”

"This disturbing phenomenon of the girl-child being turned into substitute spouse has been happening in our country along with the feminization of labor migration," said Cayetano, who noted that women now comprise 70 percent of Filipino workers deployed abroad.

“The problem remains largely unreported, however, due to its sensitive nature and mainly because of the fear of the girl-child to file a formal complaint against her own father which would bring severe stress and shame to her and her family," the senator said.

As a result, she said the abused daughter is forced to become an "adult" at an early age, depriving her of the opportunities and rights of being a child.

She described the phenomenon as one of the most damaging social impacts of labor migration, one that can never be measured by any of the government's socio-economic indicators or captured by statistics on labor export.

The international forum-session, entitled "A parliamentary perspective on discrimination and violence against the girl child," was jointly organized by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), of which Cayetano is first vice president of the Coordinating Committee of Women Parliamentarians, and the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (UNDAW).

Cayetano presented the problem of incest among families left behind by OFWs at the forum-session, which stressed the need to push for national laws and policies to protect girls from violence and abuse.