//Rape Culture in the Philippines

Rape Culture in the Philippines

“As long as there are many beautiful women, there will be more rape cases.”

“You can mess with, maybe Miss Universe. Maybe I will even congratulate you for having the balls to rape somebody when you know you are going to die,”

Ang hirap nga lang kung si Jessica Soho magbo-bold. Kailangan gang rape lagi. Sasabihin ng rapist, ‘Ipasa ang Lechon.’ Sasabihin naman ni Jessica, ‘Eh nasaan yung apple?'”

“She is so pretty. I can do her all night.”

“A girl who drinks deserves what happens to her.”

Have you heard these statements before? Maybe you have heard them in TV shows or shared them on social media? 

Those are jokes that prominent people speak. The President said the first two jokes of the Philippines on different occasions. The first one was a joke he uttered during his speech at the graduation rites of the PMA Mabalasik of 2019 in Baguio City. The second one was uttered during his address to Filipino diplomats in Davao. Women’s rights activists frowned upon it and were public about their displeasure. 

The third joke is from Vice Ganda, a famous comedian. It was during a concert in May 2013 where the joke was made public. However, though some found it funny and laughed during the show, Jessica Soho was deeply offended and publicised her sentiments regarding the “joke”. Suddenly, the “joke” is not anymore what it used to be, and the subject of it becomes a real person, someone who is living and has feelings. Someone who became deeply troubled by how it became funny to violate other people. This is just one of the many instances of rape culture unfolding before our eyes.

What is rape culture?

Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and sexual violence against women is normalized and excused either in the media or popular culture. Rape culture is perpetuated through misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorisation of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.  Furthermore, it is a culture that treats sexual violence as the norm and blames victims for their assaults. It is not just about sexual violence itself, but about cultural norms and institutions that protect rapists, promote impunity, shame victims, and demand that women make unreasonable sacrifices to avoid sexual assault.

In other words, rape culture is a society that teaches girls that it is their fault why they get raped instead of pointing the blame at the rapist. This kind of culture can be seen in ways that are usually thought to be normal such as when someone sees a guy drinking with a group of women, it is generally considered conquest, and he is being praised for having done so. But if a woman was seen drinking beer with a group of young men, then she is being criticised as a loose woman and usually thinks that something terrible is going to happen to her. Or as simple as a woman doing the chores, it is being seen as normal because that is what a woman should do, she should clean the house and make it into a home, whereas if a man is seen doing the household chores such as cooking he is criticised as inferior and feminine. More so in careers, if someone sees a woman succeed in a profession usually dominated by men, say being a lawyer, she is seen as bossy, but when a man does so, he is praised as competent and practical. These ideas are usually thought of as normal. Admit it, we hear it all the time. “Kababaeng tao pero laging umiinom nang alak,” or “Ano ba yan, yung asawa hindi naman tumutulong sa gawaing-bahay.”     

Is Rape Culture a real thing in the Philippines?

Unfortunately, it is, and it is so ingrained in our society that it is slowly becoming a norm. And it is downright frightening.

Like mentioned before, rape jokes are sometimes the opening line in comedy bars or, in some cases, in concerts, just like Vice Ganda’s joke about gang rape. At first, one might think it is funny, but when someone is offended by it, especially the subject of the joke, the joke becomes offensive and downright insulting. Sometimes, it becomes an ice breaker to a boring speech. However, no matter what it is, jokes are meant to be funny, and I don’t think the victims of rape are laughing at those jokes.

How normal is it in the Philippines? It’s on our TV. Do you remember a TV ad from Colt 45 where a guy ecstatically massages Cristine Reyes’ back? It was a promo ad in 2010 for a raffle where the winner would get a chance to have a weekend getaway with Cristine Reyes. No matter how humorous the actor was in his portrayal of a man grateful to have the opportunity to rub oil on the back of a celebrity, it became downright creepy when you think about how Cristine Reyes did not even flinch and was depicted as a sex object used for fun. The Philippine Commission on Women demanded Asia Brewery, Inc., the manufacturer of Colt 45 beer, stop making these kinds of commercials. PCW Executive Director Emmeline L. Verzosa explained, “The part of the commercial wherein the man was holding the bikini top of Ms Reyes insinuates sexual interest, hence, depicting Ms Reyes as a sex object.” However, the Senior Brand Manager Joseph Ryan Consul responded, saying that Asia Brewery, Inc. did not view the promotion as a derogatory portrayal of women as commodities or prizes. He said the date concept with a celebrity is a “rather common and highly accepted experience most people would aspire to.” Furthermore, the weekend getaway with Reyes “simply focuses on the enthralling experience of having a personal interaction with a celebrity.”

Nevertheless, they pulled out one TVC material where Cristine was in a beach setting with a presumed date and deleted some scenes.   

In alcoholic beverage commercials, women’s body is the selling point, not precisely the beverage itself. Have you ever noticed that their commercials are more centred on women wearing bikinis and posing provocatively? What does that have to do with beer or gin? These kinds of commercials played in the fantasy of men. However, it also played a significant role in normalising the objectification of women’s bodies. 

Commercials are just the tipping point of rape culture. It is in movies and Filipino teleseryes. Some of the teleseryes are even romanticising rape. Rape becomes the centre point of the story in a telescope, but later on, the rape becomes a non-existent storyline and an irrelevant subject of the ending. The worst part is that these teleseryes make the victim fall in love with their perpetrator, which gives a false dichotomy and adds insult to victims who experience the violation of their whole being. It was like the writers of these teleseryes think that rape is romantic. 

Rape culture became evident during the time of the Dacera case. Christina Dacera, a Philippine Airlines Flight attendant, was found in the hotel room’s bathtub where she was staying. The cause of death was a ruptured aortic aneurysm. After that, an investigation ensued, and it was later on reported that she was partying with 11 other men. However, the case blew out of proportion with police giving an immature statement saying that it was a rape-slay case. CCTV footage was circulating social media sites and mainstream media. It was the perfect media firestorm. With the CCTV footage circulating social media sites, the fact that she partied with 11 other men, and police stating that it was a rape-slay case, comments went from “Kawawa naman siya” to “Expected. Tingnan mo naman ang suot niya.” It went from “I’ll be praying for your soul” to “Bakit kasi siya lang mag-isa. Kababaeng tao umiinom kasama ang ibang lalaki.” It was a fiesta of opinions on social media but one thing is sure people had something sexist to say. From the way she dressed to the way, she acted in the CCTV footage. The criticism also reflected the men who supposedly raped her. Unfortunately, it was evident that the blame was more on the victim than on the alleged perpetrators.

Philippine Laws against Rape Culture

There is no express law for the prevention of rape culture, but laws protect the image of women. Here in the Philippines, we have the Magna Carta of Women or Republic Act 9710 it is a comprehensive women’s human rights law that seeks to eliminate discrimination through the recognition, protection, fulfilment, and promotion of the rights of Filipino women, especially those belonging in the marginalised sectors of the society. It conveys a framework of rights for women based directly on international law. It is the local translation of the provisions of CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women’s Committee), particularly in defining gender discrimination, state obligations, substantive equality, and temporary special measures. It also recognises human rights guaranteed by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. 

We also have R.A. 9262, which protects Women and Children against violence. Women who are battered and abused can seek protection with this law as it has expressed provisions on how to obtain protection orders and the help a woman can get from the government. The law itself is easy to comprehend and understand. 

Here are some other laws:

  • R.A. 6725 – Prohibits discrimination with respect to terms and conditions of employment solely based on sex.
  • 105-Day Expanded Maternity Leave Law – Signed into law in February 2019 by President Rodrigo Duterte, Republic Act 11210 or the Expanded Maternity Leave Law extends the previous 60-day (78 days for cesarean section delivery for women workers in the private sector) paid maternity leave to 105 days.
  • R.A. 7877 – Sexual favours made as a condition in the employment or granting promotions or privileges; or the refusal to grant the sexual favour results in limiting, segregating or classifying the employee which in any way would discriminate, deprive or diminish employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect is punishable by law.
  • R.A. 8353 – Anti-Rape Law of 1997
  • R.A. 8505 – declares the policy of the State to provide necessary assistance and protection for rape victims. 

Is there a way to remove Rape Culture?

Rape Culture is the result of years of sexism and gender stereotyping. There is no easy way to eliminate rape culture as it fuses to the minds of society like bonds in a chemical reaction. To eradicate rape culture, there must be accountability for actions, and there must be equity among genders. These laws are not only accessible to one gender but all. There is already a law that allows paternity leave for fathers to take part in taking care of the children. Anti-Rape Law also applies to males. In addition, schools and government institutions are pushing programs for gender sensitivity. Schools also have seminars on how the Sexual Harassment Law could be applied. 

As a society, we are so far away from removing rape culture. Implementing laws is just one thing, but actual change starts from every one of us. One thing is for sure, there is no excuse for rape. Rape is a violation of human dignity. We must erase in our minds that it is the victim’s fault for being raped; instead, let us make the perpetrator accountable.