Monday, 20 May 2019
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SALIGAN seeks the passage of Women Laws

 

SALIGAN, in its mission towards the empowerment of women throughout the country, joins various women’s groups in their clamor for national legislations that will fully recognize women’s rights and gender equality. Towards this end, SALIGAN supports and calls for the passage of the Magna Carta of Women Bill, the Reproductive Health Bill, and the Anti-Prostitution Bill.

  • The Magna Carta of Women is envisioned as the omnibus law to eliminate discrimination against women and to recognize, respect, protect, fulfill and promote all human rights and fundamental freedoms of women, particularly the poor and the marginalized.
  • The Reproductive Health Bill is a recognition that reproductive health is a basic human right and it is the obligation of the government to protect and facilitate the enjoyment of this right.
  • The Anti-Prostitution Bill states that women exploited in prostitution should never be treated as criminals; instead, they should be treated as victim-survivors of sexual exploitation. Being victim-survivors, the blame should not be attributed to sexually-exploited women but on those who take advantage of them, as well as those who profit and gain from their sexual victimization.

The proposed pieces of legislation find bases from international instruments, foremost of which is the International Bill of Human Rights[1] which lays down the fundamental human rights of every individual. Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, provides that: Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth… without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour,sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. It recognized gender equality as one of the basic tenets of humanity.

In addition to this, the Philippines is also a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women[2], the paramount international human rights instrument espousing the promotion, protection and fulfillment of women’s rights. As signatory to CEDAW, the Philippines is duty bound to give life to the provisions of the Convention by incorporating into its legal system laws that recognize gender equality, define as well as prohibit gender discrimination, and put forth a national agenda that would end all forms of discrimination against women in its society. Twenty-six years after the ratification to the Convention, the Philippine Government has been remiss in complying with its State obligations under the Convention.


Furthermore, the 1987 Constitution recognizes the role of women in nation building and ensures fundamental equality before the law between men and women.[3] As a state policy, it is therefore incumbent upon the State to enact measures towards gender equality.


Beyond international and constitutional bases, the above-mentioned proposed measures would address pressing issues of women who, more often than not, without protection from the State through domestic laws, suffer from gender discrimination, marginalization and violence.


In support of the proposed measures, SALIGAN calls for the immediate passage of the following:


Magna Carta of Women Bill

  • The Magna Carta of Women fulfills the Philippines’ International Obligations under CEDAW


As stated in the most recent deliberations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women:

The Committee notes with regret that it did not receive a fully satisfactory explanation regarding the status of the Convention in the national legal system. The committee is also concerned that there is no definition of discrimination in line with article 1 of the Convention, encompassing both direct and indirect discrimination, in national legislation[4].

The passage of the Bill on Magna Carta of Women into law will give life to the principles of equality and non-discrimination in our society as it incorporates provisions of CEDAW in our laws. Most important is the concrete definition of discrimination found in the proposed legislation, to wit:

Discrimination Against Women refers to any gender-based distinction, exclusion or restriction which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field[5];

The mandate of the State Parties under the Convention is clear. The Philippines non-compliance to its international legal responsibility undermines not only the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women but also the very principle of international law which requires the observance of good faith in the performance of its obligation under the Convention.

  • The Magna Carta of Women adheres to the Constitutional Provisions on Human Rights and Equality

Article II, Sections 11[6] and 14[7] of the Constitution specifically provide for respect for human dignity and human rights as well as fundamental equality before the law of men and women as State Policy. These Constitutional provisions secure the recognition of women’s human rights as a policy of the State, mandating it to promote, respect and recognize the fundamental rights and freedoms of women.


The proposed legislation seeks to do more than provide a general mantra for the principles of women’s rights as human rights and gender equality in our legal system. The Magna Carta of Women aims to be the legal framework for the realization of these principles in our laws:

  1. It recognizes specific Human Rights of Women
  2. It guarantees the Protection of Women’s Human Rights
  3. It ensures the Equality of Men and Women in Marriage and Family Relations
  4. It safeguards Women’s Political and Economic Rights
  5. It provides for Comprehensive Health Services
  6. It addresses sector-specific gender discrimination and promotes the empowerment of women belonging to the marginalized sectors

Reproductive Health Bill

  • The Reproductive Health Bill fulfills the Philippines’ International Obligations under CEDAW.

Under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, to which the Philippines is a state-party, the government should:

  1. Ensure access to specific educational information to help ensure the health and well-being of families, including information and advice on family planning (Article 10 (h));
  2. Take appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, access to health care services, including those related to family planning (Article 12(1));
  3. Ensure, on the basis of equality of men and women, the same rights to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights (Article 16 (1) e).

The Philippine government is not only remiss in promoting the reproductive health and rights, particularly of women, but also places barriers to the full attainment of this entitlement with the lack of an integrated national policy on reproductive health.

 

  • The Reproductive Health Care Bill upholds the principle that individuals and couples have the right to be fully in charge of their reproductive decisions.

It guarantees the freedom of choice of every person over their own bodies – whether or not they want to have children, how many children they will have and the space between their births.

It promotes the right of women to reproductive self-determination by ensuring that there is an enabling environment where she can make informed decisions on how she can best ensure her overall reproductive health and that of her family, without coercion or fear.

  • The Reproductive Health Care Bill ensures universal access to reproductive health services and information.

Filipinos - adults and young, single and married, Catholics and non-Catholics - have been denied of access to adequate information on reproductive health and regular and timely dispensation of reproductive health care services as the government only provides “Catholic Church-approved reproductive health services and information.” This has resulted in continuing high incidences of unwanted and unsafe pregnancies, illegal abortions, unacceptable maternal deaths and overpopulation.

The bill will provide timely, complete and accurate information on reproductive health as well as ready access to safe, adequate and affordable reproductive health care services. It provides penalties to those who would withhold information on reproductive health or would fail to perform or deliver reproductive health services. It provides capability-building to barangay health workers who are at the forefront of delivering the basic health services. It mandates local government units to appropriate funds for reproductive health services.


Access to medically-safe and legal natural and modern family planning methods will: (1) mitigate the adverse health consequences of high fertility on mothers and children; (2) promote and protect the reproductive health rights of all Filipinos; and (3) reduce unwanted pregnancy and accidental parenthood.


The bill will save the lives of mothers and children. It will save the future of youth. It will help couples become truly responsible parents who can concentrate more on providing a stable, happy home life for their children or those couples who are not yet ready to become parents or those who choose not to be a parent at all.

  • The Reproductive Health Care Bill ensures an effective reproductive health education.

The bill does not only instill consciousness of freedom of choice but responsible exercise of one’s rights. 
The bill provides for a mandatory reproductive health and sexuality education in our formal education system. While it is imperative that the parents and adult members of the family should initiate this education; however, it is a fact that most parents are remiss in this obligation or cannot simply perform such because they are overseas workers.

By ensuring an effective reproductive health education, young people will be provided with information and skills about taking care of their reproductive and sexual health, and will help them make sound decisions now and in the future.

According to the United Nations Population Fund: “It has been repeatedly shown that reproductive health education leads to responsible behavior, higher levels of abstinence, later initiation of sexuality, higher use of contraception, and fewer sexual partners. These good effects are even greater when parents can talk honestly with their children about sexual and reproductive matters.”


The Reproductive Health Care Bill promotes population management in order to achieve social and economic development.


The gap between the number of families who would like to limit family size and the number who have access to sufficient information and services to do so have risen among the poor majority of Filipinos. It is these children of the poor who are unlikely to finish elementary school, or go to high school or develop technical or professional skills for a productive life.
Population management achieved through the enhancement of reproductive health is fundamental to improving human welfare, reducing poverty and promoting economic growth.


The bill will manage an unbridled population growth that hinders socioeconomic development by establishing an integrated national policy on population management.


The bill does not legalize abortion nor does it promote sexual promiscuity.
The bill continues to proscribe abortion, which is a crime under the Revised Penal Code. However, when abortion is resorted to, despite the prohibition, there is a need to manage post-abortion complications in a humane and compassionate manner. The patient should not be suffered to die due to her desperation.


Neither does the bill encourage abortion. On the contrary, the correct and consistent use of contraceptives prevents unwanted, unplanned and mistimed pregnancies, which are the very pregnancies that are terminated through abortion. Planned pregnancies foreclose intentional abortion.

Reproductive health and sexuality education among the young people will not breed “sex maniacs” and promote sexual promiscuity. Studies by the UN and countries which have youth sexuality education document the following beneficial results: (1) proper sexual values are promoted; (2) early initiation to sexual relations is delayed; (3) abstinence before marriage is encouraged; (4) multiple sex partners is avoided; and (5) spread of STDs is prevented.

 

  • The Reproductive Health Bill is about Health and Rights.

The bill is not about abortion or sexual promiscuity. It is not an issue of religion nor a question of when does life begins.


It is about health and rights. It is about promoting and protecting the basic human right to health and reproductive self-determination.


Anti-Prostitution Bill

 

  • The Anti-Prostitution Bill fulfills the Philippines’ International Obligations under CEDAW, adheres to the Philippine Constitution and is a part of the Philippine Plan for Gender Responsive Development.


Under different international instruments of which the Philippines is a party, such as, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Philippine State has committed to end the continuing sexual exploitation of women, men, and children and all forms of gender-based violence by creating an enabling environment where the human rights of women and children are promoted, protected, and fulfilled.


As a state-party to the CEDAW, the Philippines undertakes:

 

1. To establish legal protection of the rights of women on an equal basis with men and to ensure through competent national tribunals and other public institutions the effective protection of women against any act of discrimination (Article II, c);


2. To take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women (Article II, f);


3. To repeal all national penal provisions which constitute discrimination against women (Article II, g).


The 1987 Constitution provides that “the State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights”[8]. It further mandates that “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty and property without due process of law nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the law”[9].


Furthermore, the Philippine Plan for Gender Responsive Development (PPGD)[10] sets the government’s policy framework on prostitution, views prostitution as a human rights violation and identifies the decriminalization of women in prostitution as a starting point in addressing the problem. According to the PPGD, “the desired effect of such legislation is that women and children should no longer be arrested or fined like criminals”.

 

  • The Anti-Prostitution Bill adheres to the principle that prostitution is a forced choice.

 

Prostitution is not a choice. It is an attempt to survive. In a developing country like the Philippines, many women fall prey to prostitution as it is percieved to be a way of earning money. More than a consequence of poverty, however, prostitution springs from gender discrimination and violence directed specifically to women. Recognizing that prostitution is a form of violence against women would erase the notion that it is a free choice.

  • The Anti-Prostitution Bill shifts the blame from prostituted women and decriminalizes women in prostitution.

Currently, with the Vagrancy law in force, Philippine laws have been putting the blame on women in prostitution. Existing law does not solve the problem at its very roots since it continues to view sexually exploited women as the culprits. The machismo attitude still prevails. 
Sexual exploitation is the most evident and degrading way of controlling women. In prostitution, women are reduced to mere commodities by men who ‘buy women’s bodies’ for sexual gratification.

The passage of the Anti-Prostitution bill will recognize that prostitutes are not criminals but victims of the system of prostitution and will free them from any criminal accountability. Consequently, the Vagrancy Law under Article 202 of the Revised Penal Code, which penalizes women in prostitution, will be expressly repealed. This, however, does not mean that prostituted women who themselves commit any of the prohibited acts of prostitution will be made exempt from liability by the fact that they are automatically considered victims under the proposed bill.

  • The Anti-Prostitution Bill looks at women in prostitution as victim-survivor of exploitation who must be provided protection and support services.


For the past decades, efforts have been made by different organizations to rescue women exploited in prostitution. However, the recurring problem is that there is a scarcity of services that may be availed of by rescued women. Being rescued is not the end all and be all of the effort to save a person exploited in prostitution. The stigma attached to prostitution is very difficult to surpass. Reintegration into the society is a usual problem. Often, majority of the members of society look at them with raised eyebrows and with prejudiced minds.

The road to recovery for survivors of prostitution is long and arduous. The Anti-Prostitution bill provides for an extensive system of support services to victims in order to facilitate the healing process, ease the transition and open doors to economic opportunities. Moreover, being victims, they are entitled not only to protection given under all existing laws but also to the right to avail of legal redress against the perpetrators.

Having laid down the bases, the salient features and our position on the proposed measures, SALIGAN calls for the immediate passage of the Magna Carta of Women Bill, the Reproductive Health Bill, and the Anti-Prostitution Bill in the 14th Congress.

 

 

[1] The International Bill of Rights consists of three parts. The first is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was unanimously adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1948. The second the third part are the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, respectively, which were adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 16, 1966.

[2] CEDAW was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 18 December 1979. It entered into force as an international treaty on 3 September 1981 after the twentieth country had ratified it.

[3] Section 14, Article II.

[4] Paragraph 9, Concluding Comments

[5] Based on Article one of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

[6] The State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.

[7] The State recognizes the role of women in nation-building and shall ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men.

[8] Section 11, Article II

[9] Section 1, Article III

[10] Executive Order No. 273 (September 8, 1995)