Run, Pinay! Run!

Myth #1: A rape victim must try to escape at every opportunity. People v. Custodio, (Criminal Case No. 37,921-96, April 26, 2005).

On 16 July 2010, Karen Vertido was able to convince the international Committee monitoring and implementing CEDAW, the international bill of rights for women, to declare that judicial decisions that rely on gender-based myths and misconceptions about rape and rape victims, such as the decision above, is in violation of a woman’s fundamental right to be free of discrimination. Had Karen Vertido and her attorney not taken that fourteen year long journey to justice, rape victims’ burden would be much heavier today. However, because of Karen Vertido and her legal team, rape victims worldwide now have in their tool box Karen Vertido v. State of the Philippines, a landmark international case that holds a nation liable for judicial decisions that rely on gender-based myths and misconceptions about rape and rape victims. The Committee had recommended that the State of the Philippines provide compensation to Karen Vertido, proportionate to the damages she suffered due to the discriminatory manner in which the trial judge acquitted her perpetrator.

In an earlier entry, I said that Karen Vertido and her legal team have ultimately set in motion an institutional evolution to better the plight of Filipinas within the Philippine justice system. While women’s advocates, who are all too aware of the history of women’s universal burden across all cultures and governmental systems, are on the lookout for a new wave of feminist revolution, many rationally work along the pace of their evolving societies and governments. The legitimate question now is, “How much has the Philippine justice system evolved since 16 July 2010?” I will explore that question in greater detail at a later entry.

In my view, one cannot appreciate the present state of the universe without a clear understanding of its past. So, before we go on to examine whether the Philippines has lived up to the standard set by Karen Vertido v. State of the Philippines, addressing gender stereotyping in the legal institution that detrimentally affects rape victims, I’d like to take a moment to dive deep into the process of how Karen Vertido and her legal team were able to deliver the landmark case that, when used appropriately, clears a major roadblock to justice for rape victims. Unbeknownst to many, Karen Vertido’s communication to United Nations took about two and half years to complete; from raising the necessary funds, conducting the research, and writing the substance. While the case has since enjoyed celebrity status in the human rights and women’s rights worlds, only a small percentage of the public knows the legal and logical arguments presented to get where are now. To fill the gap, I will detail, in subsequent posts, the arguments presented against the 8 Gender-based Myths and Misconceptions in the Karen Vertido case.

For rape victims looking for justice through domestic means, I hope the following entries would assist you in your journey. In rape cases of countries arrested in patriarchal notions of governance, it has been established that the odds are stacked against female victims of sexual violence. So in seeking justice, victims of rape or other forms of sexual violence must take the crucial step of seeking the support of a competent attorney who specializes in women’s issues and has the expertise in international human rights law. Up next, I present to you an example of what that competent attorney looks like by publishing the arguments put together by Atty. Evelyn G. Ursua and her Women Legal Bureau team on behalf of Karen Vertido.


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