In order to start the conversation of evidence of rape culture in the Philippines, the term “rape culture” must be defined first. According to Ann Burnett’s paper on Rape Culture, rape culture exists when rape, or sexual assault, is normalized in society. The term rape culture originated in the 1970s during the second wave feminist movement. Dianne Herman (1984) stated that rape will continue to be pervasive as long as sexual violence and male dominance are glamorized. With the definition of rape culture, it is clear there is the normalization and minimization of rape and sexual assault in the Philippines and there is evidence to support this claim. There are multiple factors that contributes to the normalization of rape such as laws, pop culture, language, and misogyny that is ingrained in the culture.
Rape and Sexual Assault in the Philippines
In Philippine law, rape is defined by Article 266-A of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by RA 8353, as a crime against persons committed as follows:
1. by a man who shall have carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances:
- a. through force, threat, or intimidation;
- b. when the offended party is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious;
- c. by means of fraudulent machinations or grave abuse of authority; and
- d. when the offended party is under twelve (12) years of age or is demented, even though none of the circumstances mentioned above be present.
2. by any person who, under any of the circumstances mentioned in paragraph 1 hereof, shall commit an act of sexual assault by inserting his penis into another person’s mouth or anal orifice, or any instrument or object, into genital or anal orifice of another person.
The Philippines has laws protecting victims of sexual harassment like the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995, the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children (VAWC), and recently, the Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act. The Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act primarily aims to penalize catcalling and other forms of sexual harassment in the streets through fines, community service, or jail time all for the sake of ensuring a safer environment for women and the LGBTS. However, despite efforts by lawmakers to impose concrete punishment on offenders, sexual harassment remains to be a prevalent issue in the Philippines.
Based on reports, rape is one of the most prevalent forms of violence against women in the Philippines. According to the Philippine Commission on Women, reported rape cases ranked third (13.1%) of the total reported violence against women cases in the country from years 1999 to 2009. Philippine Commission on Women Chairperson Rhodora Masilang-Bucoy in 2017 reported that from January to October 2016, there were 7,037 reported rape cases nationwide. According to the Anti-Rape Law of 1997, rape is committed when a person has forced, threatened or intimidated a woman to have sexual intercourse, or other forms of sexual assault and Versoza said it would also be better to revise some aspects of the law because there are provisions on the forgiveness because under the current anti-rape law, if the legal husband is the offender, the wife can forgive and absolve him of criminal liability. According to the data from the Philippine National Police, the perpetrators of violence against women are commonly intimate male partners. The terrifying aspect of this is that these numbers can be larger than what is reported because there are still unreported cases of rape.
Philippine Pop Culture
Normalizing rape in pop culture is seen in the Philippines. A famous example is the current president of the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte, who is infamous for his viral misogynistic comments that is disguised as “having a twisted sense of humor”. These comments include his rape jokes during his pardoning of the PMA cadets and his remarks about rapes that will continue to happen as long as there are beautiful women. Another famous example is Senate President Tito Sotto saying ‘For example, ‘yung sinabi ko na binibiro lang, hinipuan na ganun, will they be liable? You (Hontiveros) said yes, the answer I think is no.’ during a interpellation on Senate Bill No. 1326 or the Safe Spaces bill. He received criticism for this comment due to his use of “biro lang” and “hinipuan na ganun” which minimizes sexual assault. Tolerating misogynistic people in power is dangerous because this teaches young people that it is okay to trivialize rape and sexual assault.
Rape is also mentioned in a lot of rap songs. Basta May Alak, May Balak by Filipino rapper Skusta Clee is famous for this. In the lyrics, it is a conversation between an unnamed woman, obviously directed to his female listeners, and Skusta Clee wherein he warns her not to join a drinking session because she might get raped. This is a classic wherein instead of telling men not to rape people, society would rather tell a woman to adjust to rapists to avoid being raped despite multiple studies done on rape state that women are raped regardless of location, clothing, age, and religion.
Use of language also contributes to rape culture. A study titled Sexism in Philippine Preschool English Language Textbooks by Veronico Tarrayo done in 2014 explored sexism in the use of language. The paper revealed that the textbooks featured both genders but the males appeared more frequently than females in the illustrations of the textbooks. Females were far less visible than men in occupational roles. The occupational roles for females were less diverse and were restricted to stereotypical types of occupation/profession while male occupations showrf a wider range, thus, providing them with more options than females. Females were usually attributed with their “good” looks and passivity; by contrast, males showed aggression, dominance, and activity. In the textbooks analyzed, the number of interests, and lifestyles of females was higher than those of males. However, the females were more particularly represented in indoor activities, i.e., household chores.
Not only is this present in textbooks, but also in everyday language. Phrases like “Kababae mong tao”, “Kasi babae ka”, and “Kalalaki mong tao” are also dangerous to women and men because this reinforces the idea that women and men can and cannot do certain things because of their gender. Women are looked down as weak, are given less opportunities to succeed, women’s rights are more easily violated because of loopholes in laws and stigma, and women are expected to just accept these injustices as part of life, “kase babae ka”. Women are not the only ones affected by sexism and gender roles. Even though men are universally thought of as the stronger sex, there are layers of expectations that they have to deal with. “Kalalaki mong tao” is used to push toxic masculinity on to men whenever they display emotions and do actions that society would deem as “feminine”. This teaches young Filipino men to give in to the “macho” stereotype. The word “macho” is a descendant of the Hispanic majo – late 18th century Madrid street toughs famous for their assertive violence amongst many things. The macho is visualized as a heterosexual male who fathers children from multiple women, fraternizes with other males in public displays of masculine bravado (like drinking, gambling, and fisticuffs), and establishes their social status through dominance over women. This macho as an aggressive, sexually promiscuous, and irresponsible male who inhabits the center of the social stage has defined what a man is supposed to be. This “macho” stereotype in the Philippines encourages young men to dominate women through acts of aggression and masculine bravado. This raises young men to be violent, aggressive, and misogynistic.
Culture and Views
Philippines is a patriarchal country that has a culture that puts men on top and the women below them. This is because the sexist culture of Western colonizers forced on Filipinos. This sexist culture had such a large impact that even after the declaration of independence from colonizers, sexism is still a way of life in the Philippines. In the Philippines, women are controlled by conservative views. Women are expected to dress conservatively to avoid provoking men’s sexual desires and when they refuse to do so and get raped, they receive judgement instead of empathy.
In conclusion, rape culture is evident in the Philippines and Philippine culture contributes to it in many ways. Philippine society is normalizing rape by tolerating the minimization and trivialization of rape and raising men to be aggressive and misogynistic through the usage of language, influence of the media, and excusing them through the law. With this, it leads to men being violent and committing sexual violence against women. With the world constantly changing, Philippine society must keep up and eliminate these factors that contribute to rape culture.
- Philippine Commission on Women. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.pcw.gov.ph/focus-areas/violence-against-women/rape
- Cadiz, R. (n.d.). SEXISM AND GENDER DISCRIMINATION IN THE PHILIPPINES. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/34449525/SEXISM_AND_GENDER_DISCRIMINATION_IN_THE_PHILIPPINES
- Ablan, R. B. C., & Gaspar, M. S. U. (n.d.). Legal Research on Rape in the Philippines. Retrieved from https://www.scribd.com/document/321785644/Legal-Research-on-Rape-in-the-Philippines