Women’s group fears soldiers are threatening to rape Marawi evacuees

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Up to 200,000 people have fled from the war-torn city of Marawi. Picture via Twitter

A women’s rights group has expressed concern over allegations that government troops threatened women with rape if they did not leave embattled Marawi City.

Gabriela — a nationwide alliance of more than 200 women’s groups — say they are particularly concerned given president Duterte’s comments on rape at the outbreaking of fighting in the city.

Addressing troops at a military base last month, the president said: “For this martial law and the consequences of martial law and the ramifications of martial law, I and I alone would be responsible. Just do your work. I will handle the rest. I will be imprisoned for you. If you rape three women, I will say that I did it.”

Congresswoman Arlene Brosas, who sits in the House of Representatives for the Women’s Party, said: “I have personally heard the stories of women who sought refuge in evacuation centres in Lanao del Norte and after government troops threatened to rape them, as encouraged by no less than in his public remarks.

“These are alarming accounts which prove that the martial law and President’s rape remarks have actually emboldened the military to dangle rape threats against women in Marawi City. We fear that there are actual victims of rape and we encourage them to speak out and seek justice.

“Any sign of safety is elusive for the women particularly in Marawi City with terrorists still on the loose and with soldiers eager to rape them.

“Women and children are made more vulnerable to harassment and other forms of abuses as they are cramped in evacuation centres with no sufficient facilities and without support services.”

Neither the palace nor the military have commented on the allegations.

The congresswoman is among lawmakers who have filed House Resolution 1085 directing the House Committee on Human Rights to investigate the plight of displaced civilians in Marawi City and to look into any rights violations committed by the military.