Though the Philippines used to be one of the most gender-equal countries, it is slowly slipping out of its old, fair ways and more and more violence against women (VAW) is starting to shape the way a woman experiences herself through her health and body in a negative way. It seems as though women are rising in the ranks in terms of gaining more economic status and power, but violence is still holding them back. Approximately 1 in 5 women between the ages of 15-49 has experienced physical violence (Philippine Commission on Women, 2008) and this violence can come in more ways then just physical. It can be physical, emotional, economical (limiting the ways a women can succeed in her job, perhaps by vandalism), and mostly through non-consensual sexual intercourse. As the Department of Health said, “it does not only affect women’s physical and reproductive health, but especially their mental and emotional state; VAW limits human development and curbs their capacity to participate in social development,” (Rodriguez, 2015). Often times, violence against women is sparked by a perceived unequal power relationship between men and women. Men typically see themselves as powerful, leaders, and providers, while women are supposed to just stay around the house and are seen as solely nurturing and supportive of the man. Furthermore, women are typically understood and seen in terms of their relation to men, not independently. To continue, violence often starts when a man feels his position as a powerful male is threatened by a women, and as women are gaining more prestige in academics and in the economy, more and more violence is happening. Specifically, the Philippine National Police have reported that violence against women has increased by over 500% in the past 16 years; in 1997 the reported number of cases was 3,687 and in 2013, that number skyrocketed to 23,865 (Rodriguez, 2015). We also have to keep in mind that so many cases are unknown because of societal pressures on women to keep quiet because it might be their fault. Women are often based by men because they were acting “flirty” or not dressing appropriately, but there is no excuse.
Reframing violence against women and the trauma that comes along with it would largely challenge our western-culture beliefs that the word “health” only entails things that happen to our body naturally or by disease. We believe that anything else is a social issue. Even in the Philippines, the government recognizes violence against women as a “pervasive social problem” and don’t realize all of the other aspects that are involved (Rodriguez, 2015). Violence can easily become a health issue once someone breaks their arm, but when a female gets an STI through non-consensual sex or she has a black eye from being punched, it is not recognized as one–the same thing happens in the U.S. If a women looked for medical help after being sexually assaulted, they would just be referred to a helpline or to the police. Biomedicine does not traditional to to use combination of methods to attack an issue like this and there is no physical cure to a black eye.
Traditionally, as we learned in Week 1, biomedicine focuses on treating individuals in direct ways using scientifically approved and informed practices. This may be useful when dealing with the ER or completing a surgery you have already done 50 times, but when it comes to looking at social, biological, and psychological aspects of trauma and “injury”, biomedicine may not be the way to go. Biomedicine might ignore the environment of the individual going through trauma and just focus on their bodily responses to medicine. The biopsychosocial model of science could group several aspects of harm and trauma a woman may go through, is more extensive, and should be used more often. For example, with intergenerational trauma, which can reach a family, a population, and a people, biomedicine could not really prevent any spread of emotional trauma or chronic violence because it focuses on an individual, not a population or the violence’s causes. Overall, though viewing violence and intergenerational trauma as health issues challenges current views and doesn’t match much with the current biomedical model of health, it does challenge us to improve in these areas and to start viewing it as a health issue as well.
Rodriguez, Fritzie. “Violence against Women: Sex, Power, Abuse.” Rappler, 2015, www.rappler.com/move-ph/issues/gender-issues/85640-women-girls-violence-ph.
Philippine Commission on Women.” Statistics on Filipino Women and Men’s Education | Philippine Commission on Women, www.pcw.gov.ph/focus-areas/violence-against-women.