The politics of gender inequality and uneven socio-economic development create negative public discourses about sexuality and discourage women and gender and sexual minorities from seeking help for gender-based violence, reproductive health concerns and related vulnerabilities. The Philippines is no exception. Women and gender and sexual minorities in the Philippines are vulnerable because their rights to their bodies and their safety are disregarded or trivialised by cultural and gender norms even though enshrined in law. Society still adheres to conservative ideas of appropriate expressions of femininity that include deference to authority, modesty, and chastity when it comes to expressions of sexuality. There remains a strong belief that mothers and young girls must prioritise family reputation and ensure that domestic affairs are kept within families, including issues of domestic abuse and violence.
In the Philippines, one in five women between the ages of 15-49 experience gender-based violence in their lifetime, and over 40% of people who ever experience violence do not seek help from authorities for their situation (National Demographic and Health Survey, 2018). Less than 25% of young people aged 15-24 feel they have adequate knowledge about sex and sexuality (Young Adults Fertility and Sexuality Survey, 2013).
While teen sexuality is heavily stigmatised, among young people, there is growing openness in the exploration and expression of different aspects of their sexuality, including gender identities and expression, and desires for sexual intimacy. Young people need a safe space that can support them in navigating the pleasures and vulnerabilities related to their sexuality.
Lunas Collective (LC) started during the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020, as a response to the pandemic’s impact on those living in unsafe homes. It was founded by a young team of feminists and gender justice advocates, in the early stages of their careers and aged 24 to 35. It offers a volunteer-powered helpline supporting survivors of gender-based violence/discrimination and those with reproductive health concerns. It currently focuses on Metro Manilla. It is driven by three interconnected pillars: care, pleasure and community. LC wants to create communities that can support all people in living and loving freely.
LC is currently set up as a project and sub-organisation of the University of the Philippines Center for Women’s and Gender Studies (UPCWGS), and its non-profit arm, the University of the Philippines Center for Women’s Studies Foundation, Inc. (UPCWSFI). The UPCWSFI is registered as a non-profit organisation in the Philippines. In terms of day-to-day operations and strategies, the LC’s core team has full control of all operations, acts independently and autonomously from UPCWGS and UPCWSFI.
During its short existence, LC has been periodically invited by committees in the Philippine Senate and House of Representatives to provide technical comments for the implementation of feminist care and the full provision of sexual and reproductive health and rights services. LC is also an active member in civil society networks ensuring the implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health law, and in social campaigns to decriminalise abortion in the Philippines.
EMpower's first grant to Lunas Collective (LC) supports 800 young people aged 15-24 as well as 200 adults. The grant allows LC: 1. To normalise the discussion of teen sexuality amongst girls and young women. This is being achieved via public education on healthy views on sexuality, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and survivor-centred response to Gender Based Violence (GBV). 2. To encourage help seeking for GBV and SRHR. This is being achieved through the implementation of a volunteer-powered helpline addressing sexuality, SRHR and GBV. 3. Provide skill enhancement for young people volunteers to lead peer support on gender and sexuality. This is being achieved through building a supportive eco-system for victims of gender-based violence and other sexuality concerns through a capacity enhancement programme for volunteers. The grant also supports LC to strengthen capacities at the organisational level in 1. Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) and 2. Governance.
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