Finding Maria Clara-The Doctrine and the Filipina,
In the past year, the value of a woman’s word took center-stage. It prompted an in-depth look into the nature of rape and sexual harassment allegations, vis-à-vis the prosecution of such crimes. No less than the Norwegian Nobel Committee recognized rape and other forms of sexual abuse as a weapon and a form of violence against the inherent dignity of a human person when it awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize to Denis Mukwage and Nadia Murad “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.” Perhaps of wider publicity are the events and circumstances surrounding the confirmation hearing of Justice Brett Michael Kavanaugh (Kavanaugh), which was punctuated by the sexual harassment allegations made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (Dr. Ford) for acts committed by the newly-appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States when they were still in high school. The mass assemblage for and against Kavanaugh surfaced deeprooted ills in the prosecution and reception of rape and sexual harassment. One side claimed that the allegations made were political in nature and, even if they were not, they should not have been made because these kinds of allegations ruin a man’s good name. Some also said that Dr. Ford’s allegations came too late, and they should no longer be considered due to the lapse of time between the event and her coming forward.
There is also the case of Stormy Daniels who came out with sexual harassment allegations against United States President Donald J. Trump (Trump). Many refused to believe her testimony on account of her background as a worker in the sex industry. Worse, there were those who faulted her for the harassment she experienced. Others put premium on the non-disclosure and settlement agreement she signed with Trump, saying that she should have honored the same. In fact, her coming forward is now being taken against her by Trump’s legal team. As one would expect, these things do not only happen in the political and public spaces of society. A case-in-point is the much-publicized case of Brock Turner, who, after having been convicted of sexual assault, was only made to serve three months of jail time. The narrative put forth highlighted Turner’s bright future as a competitive swimmer. These and many other events entered public consciousness and prompted women and their allies all over the world to take to the streets and protest against institutional oppression of women, especially victims of rape and other forms of sexual abuse. This movement came to be known as the “Women’s March.” A parallel series of similar events in Hollywood, which started with sexual harassment allegations against industry executives, gave birth to the “#MeToo” movement, which urged victims of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and sexual violence to come forward. In the later event, the public is seen protesting about the fact that even though women had suffered from a history of assault, those who knew about it, especially the men, kept silent about this. Privilege and internalized machismo in the public and private sphere are legacies of many years of oppression. At the core of many of these movements is an advocacy to believe victims, or at least listen to them intently when they come forward with stories of their abuse. There is a call to let the woman speak before an unbiased public — an audience which does not immediately blame her, impute malice on her decision to come forward, nor prejudge her by calling into question her character and her appearance.
Sta. Maria, A., Balisong, P. (2018). Finding Maria Clara — The Doctrine and the Filipina. Ateneo Law Journal, 63(317), 318-351.