Swedish Ambassador Harald Fries supports #RespetoNaman campaign against gender-based violence

Swedish ambassador Harald Fries with Maica Teves, Resham Saeed, Kat Alano, and Barry Gutierrez

by Emily Manuel

(Eagle News) — Swedish Ambassador Harald Fries reiterated the Swedish embassy’s support to the #RespetoNaman campaign in a media fika or gathering which he hosted at his Makati City residence last July 9, 2019.

According to to the ambassador, “gender equality is a top priority for the Swedish government.”

“Four and a half years ago, when a new government came into power in Sweden, they formed the first feminist government in the world with the first feminist foreign policy. They or we did this based on the conviction that the world would be a much better place to live in if women enjoyed the same rights, representation, and resources as men — and fighting gender-based violence is an important part of this,” the ambassador stated.

Ambassador Fries also shared how listening to the testimonies of victims of sexual abuse opened his eyes to the prevalence of this issue not only in the Philippines but also in Sweden, where the #MeToo movement has already resulted in new laws.

– Raising awareness –

#RespetoNaman is a campaign that aims to eliminate gender-based violence in the Philippines by raising awareness about rape and sexual harassment issues and empowering women to speak up. It’s a collaborative project of the Office of the Vice President, Embassy of Sweden in Manila, UN Women, SPARK!, Empower, Terre des Hommes, Girls Advocacy Alliance and Para sa Sining.

Since its launch in November 2018, the campaign has been going on a nationwide tour with its “Don’t Tell Me How to Dress” exhibit. The exhibit features clothes survivors were wearing when they were sexually harassed or assaulted. The campaign will take on its first Visayas leg starting July 18, 2019 in Cebu City.

– Changing policy –

Maica Teves, executive director of SPARK!, says the response has been overwhelming. While the first year has been about creating awareness, they also want to change policy regarding our rape laws.

Kat Alano, founder of Empower, emphasizes the need to educate judges and people in the justice system.

Barry Gutierrez, spokesperson for the Office of the Vice President (OVP), adds that despite the Rape Shield Law, evidence of past sexual history continues to be a defense in a rape trial. Here, the burden is shifted to the complainant instead of the perpetrator. “The attitudes of people in the justice system, particularly judges have not shifted from what it was 30 years ago,” he says.

Ambassador Fries commented that as a result of the #MeToo movement, there is now a law in Sweden that requires proof of explicit consent.

– Newest celebrity ambassador –

#RespetoNaman celebrity ambassador Resham Saeed

Binibining Pilipinas Supranational 2019 Resham Saeed was announced as the newest “RespetoNaman celebrity ambassador. She hopes to spread awareness and encourage discourse about the topic.