In a ‘procession’ from Bustillos Church in Sampaloc to Mendiola Bridge in Manila at 6 this evening, around 80 survivors from organizations within the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific (CATW-AP), lament the likely default that is going to be made by President Noynoy Aquino on an amendatory bill to Vagrancy which will leave women in prostitution as criminals.
According to Jean Enriquez, Executive Director of CATW-AP, “the enrolled substitute bill for Senate Bill 2726 and House Bill 4936 (An Act Decriminalizing Vagrancy, amending for this purpose Art. 202 of the Revised Penal Code) will lapse into law on April 7, 2012 if PNoy will not veto or act upon it.” And he is not likely to either sign or veto it. “Either way, the enrolled bill will become a law, mocking women in the Philippines and around the world, as only the women are left as criminals, while the bill decriminalizes pimps,” said Enriquez.
CATW-AP, and allied organizations, social movements and human rights institutes such as the Pambansang Koalisyon ng mga Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK), Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) and the Ateneo Human Rights Centre, have been lobbying in the last nine years to pass a comprehensive anti-prostitution law which will repeal the Vagrancy Act, not amend it, and the women’s intent is to decriminalize the victims, but punish the buyers and the business. However, this consolidated version which reached PNoy, chose to keep the prostituted women criminalized (Art. 202, 5), while decriminalizing all others including the pimps (Art. 202, 1-4).
“ We have been spending sleepless nights rescuing prostituted women from jails, other than from trafficking itself, because the latter are being revictimized sexually and financially by law enforcers, if they are not helped,” according to the collective position paper of the group.
“Instead of Noynoying, the President should use his power to veto and return the bill to Congress for a total repeal of the Vagrancy Act, to be consistent with the Magna Carta of Women and the Anti-Trafficking Law of 2003,” said Liza Gonzales, a survivor of prostitution. The survivors and advocates reflected on each station of the cross, using the allegory of Magdalene. “She, too, like other women, was persecuted,” said Gonzales. Each station illustrated the sufferings experienced by the majority of them – ‘being born to poverty in the rural areas,’ ‘having been victims of incestuous rape,’ ‘sexually abused by their employers,’ and the final station was ‘being condemned to criminality by policy-makers.’
“None of them dreamt to be a prostitute as a girl nor were they lazy, they were pushed by economic and gender-based violence, pulled by the market of buyers and sex profiteers,” said Enriquez. “This Lent, we relive Magdalene’s sufferings,” she added. Each survivor speaker reflected on each station of the cross, while others listened, holding lighted candles in the darkness of the evening.