By Hannah L. Torregoza
Detained Senator Leila de Lima on Thursday rallied Filipino women to work together and resist being victims of gender-based abuses by misogynists in power.
“These attacks against women do not only attempt to weaken women’s sense of self-worth, or undermine their contributions to society, but, most insidiously, it makes it difficult – if not impossible – for them to fight for themselves and for others,” said de Lima in her message which was read at the launch of #EveryWoman’s #BantayBastos Campaign in celebration of International Women’s Day.
De Lima, who is currently facing drug charges and detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP), said women should make a meaningful difference by defending dignity and human rights without being cowed.
The senator has repeatedly slammed President Rodrigo Duterte for his attacks against her and other prominent women who have the tenacity to oppose his views.
“That we are all here today is a statement that we will not let ourselves be pigeonholed into the role of victims,” de Lima stressed.
“That we will do more than just cry foul about misogynistic attacks, and the other degrading and humiliating treatment of women in society today,” she added.
The launch of #BantayBastos Campaign by #EveryWoman in partnership with the University of the Philippines-College of Social Work and Community Development was held at the UP Hotel in Quezon City and attended by women from various sectors.
De Lima said that in fighting for justice and equality, women should hold people accountable for their words and actions even as they engage the citizenry in healthy discussions on gender-based issues hounding the patriarchal society.
“Take, for instance, misogynistic comments made by certain public servants in the past. We cannot ignore the fact that there are those who are much too willing to give such comments a pass as being ‘harmless’ or, as is the trend these days, ‘a joke.’ It is this mentality that we have to change,” the senator said.
“We must take away this weapon by making it impotent. We cannot do this simply by making a list. We must engage those who need to understand the harmful impact of these acts,” the lawmaker added.
However, the human rights activist said defending human rights and women’s dignity does not end with promoting awareness and accountability.
“We must take care that our solution will also help their victims heal, move on and become stronger and more productive citizens,” she said.
She said she hopes that the campaign would become a powerful tool in helping victims – women or otherwise – reclaim control of their lives, as well as demand accountability from public figures.
“I have full faith and confidence that this campaign, in the able and compassionate hands of #EveryWoman, will be a success and will be the source of hope for other victims of misogyny and other abusive conducts,” she said.
Recently, De Lima has been recognized by Amnesty International (AI) as one of the notable Women Human Rights Defenders Under Threat, and is a staunch defender of women’s rights and gender equality.