Opinion

Calling House Bill 4888 the 'Ander de Saya Bill' is Ignorant and Dangerous

It is a comprehensive update that includes protections for all genders, including members of the LGBTQ, and not just limited to men.
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There’s buzz around Rizal Representative Fidel Nograles’ House Bill No. 4888, which seeks to amend the landmark Republic Act 9262 or the Violence Against Women and Children Act of 2004. A necessary and arguably somewhat belated bill at the time, Nograles’ amendment seeks to include the same protections afforded women and children to include men. Some have derisively called it the Ander de Saya Bill, with some news headlines even using the updated term takusa or takotsaasawa (afraid of one’s wife). 

This reductive view of the bill can be problematic in a society that still perpetuates misogyny and toxic masculinity. When our leaders crack rape jokes, make off-color remarks about women, and sometimes even kiss them without their consent, the bill’s aim for inclusivity is easily framed as a bad thing. Macho culture is alive and well, rendering the bill prone to not being taken seriously.

This reductive view of the bill can be problematic in a society that still perpetuates misogyny and toxic masculinity.

But is such an amendment really necessary? Can’t men protect themselves? RA 9262 is important because it grants protections to a marginalized sector of society, but men aren’t traditionally considered marginalized. That’s why the bill stands out and even sounds funny. The idea that men need a law to protect them from abusive wives may sound outlandish but we know that such abuse happens. Is it prevalent enough to merit a law? 

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According to anti-domestic abuse advocate Emiliano Manahan, the incidence of male domestic abuse is on the rise, affecting 12 to 15 couples out of 100. Current Philippine law is biased against men in the area of domestic violence; men can file cases against their partners in the instance of injuries but thanks to RA 9262, women can take legal action even with verbal abuse.  

In separate studies published in 2007 and 2016, several men were interviewed about their experiences with domestic abuse. The experiences varied, but all of them indicated escalating forms of abuse starting with verbal attacks and put-downs that would graduate to physical attacks. While women are statistically more prone to suffering from domestic abuse at the hands of their male partners, women can be abusers, too. 

The culture of machismo and stigma against being perceived as being weaker than women makes men less likely to report domestic abuse. The mere fact that the term takusa is used as an insult reinforces these biases. Many men who suffer domestic abuse also don’t see themselves as victims, as they’re unable to recognize the abuse in their relationship especially when it isn’t physical.  

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Women demanding that men turn over their salaries or ATM cards is a form of economic abuse that isn’t specifically covered by current law. On the other hand, RA 9262 has provisions for men withholding financial support. Women also use sex as a powerful means to exert control over their partners, but there’s no provision that specifically covers the willful and malicious withholding of sex as a form of abuse, even in Nograles’ amendment. Both the VAWC and House Bill 4888 are clear about rape and sexual harassment, but in the clause on psychological violence, the closest it comes is “acts or omissions likely to cause mental or emotional suffering.” 

The idea that the bill is for henpecked husbands has to go because it clouds the egalitarian stance of the bill.

The culture of machismo and protecting the male ego needs to give way to the fact that women are equals to men, which means that women are just as capable of—if not necessarily statistically inclined toward—domestic abuse. The idea that the bill is for henpecked husbands has to go, even if it’s tongue-in-cheek, because it clouds the egalitarian stance of the bill. The bill takes all the protections of the VAWC and actually expands it to the partners in a “heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, intersex, cisgender, and transgender” relationship. 

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House Bill No. 4888 is actually a comprehensive update to a law that includes protections for all genders, including members of the LGBTQ, and not just limited to men. With so much pushback against the SOGIE bill, Nograles’ proposed amendment is a good move toward more inclusive laws without setting off debates about who can use what bathroom. The bill gives protections for same-sex partnerships that are currently unavailable.  

Also, the amendment includes Information Communication Technology or ICT-related violence, a much-needed update in an electronically connected world. The amendment aims to penalize stalking, hacking, and even fake news. The bill isn’t just for Ander de Saya men and calling it such mischaracterizes an inclusive and modern update to one of our more important laws.

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Hugo Zacarias Yonzon IV
Zach Yonzon is a cake artist and co-owner of Bunny Baker
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