Women's rights in the Philippines

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The position of the Philippines on women's rights is advanced compared to many other nations. Over the past century, noticeable developments have been made which have led to greater endorsement and protection of these rights. The progression towards gender equality came about through women's movements, increased numbers of women political representatives, increased numbers of educated women, greater specificity on women's issues instituted under legislation, and the focused application of those laws. In recent years, the Filipino government has addressed the rights of women under a multitude of legislative schemes including; workplace discrimination, domestic violence, sexual harassment and human trafficking.[1]

The Philippines has one of the smallest rates of gender disparity in the world. In the Global Gender Gap Index 2015, the Philippines ranked 7th out of 145 countries for gender equality.[2] The Philippines ranks higher than any other Asia-Pacific country.[3] Filipino women are now more multifaceted than ever, and play a plethora of different roles in society. These roles range between the traditional position of mother, looking after children and household, to positions in the political arena.

Despite the great progress and achievements for women's rights the Philippines has garnered so far, the country is still in need of further development. There exists a discrepancy between women who have politically, academically and financially excelled, compared to women who are domestically abused, financially unstable and who are exploited through prostitution and migrant work.[4]

Suffrage movement[edit]

The women's suffrage movement in the Philippines was one of the first, major occasions on which women grouped together politically. It was also one of the first women's rights movements, and endeavored to attain the right for women to vote and run for office. Many Filipino men were opposed to the idea, and held fast to the traditional view that a woman's place was cooking, cleaning and child rearing in the home. The males of this perspective were primarily concerned that the familial dynamic would destabilize if women were to formally step outside their customary role.

However, not all Filipino men were opposed to the movement. Congressman Filemon Sotto of Cebu filed the first women's suffrage bill at the 1907 Philippine Assembly.[5] From there on, various suffrage bills were sponsored by a number of prominent men in society including; Assemblyman Melecio Severino of Negros Occidental in 1912, Mariano Cuenco of Cebu in 1916, and various assemblymen from Bulacan, Laguna and Tomas Luna in 1918.[6] None of these bills succeeded. It was not until 1936 that the climate for women's suffrage shifted propitiously for women.

President Manuel L. Quezon declared his favour towards the suffragette movement in a speech delivered at Malacanan Palace in Manila on September 30, 1936.[7] President Quezon, having signed the Woman's Suffrage Plebiscite Bill, held that, “…it is essential and even imperative that the right to vote be granted to Filipino women if they are not to be treated as mere slaves” and that, for women, it was “…their opportunity to wield a very important weapon to defend their right to secure for themselves and those to follow them their well-being and happiness.”[8] Under the 1934 Constitution of the Philippines, Article V held that women were to gain suffrage provided 300,000 women would affirm the same desire at the ballot.[9]

On September 17, 1937 women's suffrage was legalized in the Philippines, after the required threshold for the plebiscite of 300,000 was surpassed. 447,725 women affirmed their aspiration to vote, against 33,307 no votes.[10] The Philippines was one of the first Asian countries to allow this right for women.[11]

Education[edit]

Society in the Philippines values education very highly, especially for their children. It is understood to be the means by which personal and familial poverty can be averted -allowing for a more successful way of life.

According to the Philippines's 2010 Census of Population and Housing, the literacy rate of the nation was recorded at 97.5%.[12] It was also found that the literacy rate for females was 97.2% and males was 97.0%.[13]

Tertiary education participation rates in the Philippines are among the highest in the world. The Honourable Patricia B. Licuanan, in her address at the United Nations in 2011, mentioned the high academic achievement of women, yet recognised their under-representation in some occupational fields.[14] In areas such as engineering, technology, religion, law, trade and agriculture the graduates predominantly remain to be male. It has been hoped that this can be addressed through changes to school curriculum, educational classes based on the elimination of gender stereotypes and the boosting of general awareness of gender issues.[15]

The former gap between male and female literacy and tertiary graduates no longer exists. Accessibility and attainment of education has been a major contributor to the general well-being and standard of living for not only all women, but all people, throughout the Philippines.

Political participation[edit]

Filipino women have become increasingly involved in politics on both the local and national level. Scholars believe that the rise of women leaders can be largely attributed to familial connection and the support the Catholic Church gives to women.[16] Women have come to occupy wide-ranging positions such as members of senate, members of congress, senators, governors, mayors and judges. The greatest exemplification of Filipino women’s involvement in politics are the occasions of female presidency. There have been a several women who have run for presidency in the past, but since 1986 there have been two female presidents:

  • Corazon Aquino was the seventh president of the Republic of the Philippines and the first female president.[17] Elected into office on February 25, 1986, Aquino restored democracy to the Philippines after the long dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. Aquino was named TIME magazine’s Woman of the Year in 1987.[18]
  • Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was the 14th president of the Republic of the Philippines and second female president. Antecedent to that, Arroyo had become the first female vice-president of the Philippines. Arroyo had already lived in the presidential palace before her presidency, because when she was 14 years-old her father, Diosdado Macapagal, became president of the Philippines.[19]

The Philippines 2016 presidential election suggests that the Philippines could have a third female president within 30 years of its first, as there are two female candidates vying for the position. Both candidates exemplify the continued rise of female leadership;

  • Miriam Defensor Santiago, who has already run as presidential candidate in the past, is one of these females. Santiago can boast having served in all three branches of the Philippines democratic government -executive, legislature and judiciary, as she is both lawyer and politician.[20]
  • Grace Poe is the second woman running for presidency in 2016. Poe's father ran for presidency in 2004 but was beaten by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Poe has a successful political career behind her, having won a seat in senate through winning over 20 million more votes than Loren Legarda who won the previous two elections.[21]

Violence against women[edit]

Despite the comparatively advanced position of gender equality that the Philippines maintains, gender-based violence towards women, particularly domestic violence, remains a pervasive problem.

The Philippine Statistics Authority’s National Demographic and Health Survey 2013 revealed that:

  • One in five women aged 15–49 had experienced physical violence since the age of 15 years old.[22]
  • One quarter of women ever-married aged 15–49, reported having experienced at any point emotional, physical, and/or sexual violence from their spouse.[23]
  • Of women who had experienced any form of physical or sexual violence, 30% of them sought help in response to that violence.[24]
  • While pregnant, 4% of women aged 15–49 experienced violence.[25]

Many significant laws have been enacted directly addressing this issue. These include the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act (Republic Act (RA) 9262), the Anti-Rape Law (RA 8353), the Rape-Victim Assistance and Protection Act (RA 8505), the Anti-Sexual Harassment Law (RA 7877), the Anti-Trafficking of Persons Act 2003 (RA 9208) and many more.[26][27] Despite these initiatives, there is increasing recognition that the incongruence between the laws and its effect is due to little or ineffective implementation.

In striving towards successful implementation of the law to help eliminate violence against women, a multitude of governmental, charitable and religious organisations offer their services by taking in and caring for women; as well as promoting public awareness on the subject. The Philippine Commission on Women draws attention to various centers and programs that work to alleviate violence against women. These include women's crisis facilities, domestic violence phone helplines and the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Crisis Intervention Unit.[28]

Reproductive rights[edit]

In the Philippines, abortion has been illegal and criminalized for over a century. This is mainly due to Spanish colonial-era influences in Filipino life, notably Catholicism.

It is under the Penal Code 1870 that abortion was first criminalized, and from there the Revised Penal Code 1930 adapted the same criminalizing law. Under the Revised Penal Code, midwives and physicians who have carried out abortions could face imprisonment for six years –even if they had the consent of the pregnant woman.[29] Due to the lack of exceptions in this area, women can also face imprisonment for a sentence between two and six years for having an abortion.

In the 1987 Philippine Constitution, Article II mentions the importance of the sanctity of family life. Section 12 elaborates on this holding that, “It [the State] shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.”[30]

Pregnant women who want abortions, generally have to seek them clandestinely. Some women have even deliberately conducted themselves in such a way as to bring about miscarriage. Those women who have received proper treatment for their health complications due to abortion procedure have often felt stigmatized by those treating them.[31]

Despite the law on abortion currently standing unaltered, debate over change is ongoing.[32] At present, a woman who has been raped cannot undergo abortion due to Article II. However, in cases where the life of the mother is threatened by the pregnancy, a doctor may let the spouse to choose between the life of the unborn child or the mother.

Constitutional Protections[edit]

The Philippines has many constitutional and legislative protections for women; particularly in the area of violence against women. Some of these include or are included in;

  • The 1987 Philippine Constitution in article II, section 14 maintains that the State, "recognizes the role of women in nation building and shall ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men."[33]
  • The Revised Penal code of the Philippines, Republic Act No. 3815. Article 245 of the Act holds that where any police officer or warden immorally or indecently advances to a woman under his watch, that officer or warden will be charged and could face suspension or disqualification of his post.[34]
  • The Republic Act No. 7877, also known as the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995. This Act applies to all persons, but at the same time offers particularly progressive provisions for the protection of women and children who are particularly vulnerable in this area. This Act declares the unlawfulness of sexual harassment in employment, education and training environments.[35]
  • The Republic Act No. 9710, also known as the Magna Carta of Women of 2009. Section 2 of the Act holds that, "the state realizes the equality of men and women entails the abolition of the unequal structures and practices that perpetuate discrimination and inequality."[36] It goes on to state that the realization of this can be achieved through appropriate plans, policies, mechanisms, and so forth, to achieve equality and freedom from sex-based discrimination.[37]
  • The Republic Act 10354, also known as the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012. Section 2 holds and emphasizes the importance of the equal protection of both the lives of women and the lives of unborn women from conception.[38] It goes onto recognize and guarantee the promotion of gender equality and equity, women's empowerment and that the dignity of health be classified as a human rights concern and social responsibility.[39]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Iwanaga, Kazuki.Women's Political Participation and Representation in Asia: Obstacles and Challenges. Copenhagen: Nordic Institute of Asian Studies. p. 243.
  2. ^ World Economic Forum, Gender Gap Index 2015. Retrieved April 26, 2016.
  3. ^ Mercurio, Richmond S. (19 November 2015).Highest in Asia Pacific: Philippines climbs to 7th in gender equality index, PhilStar Global Business (Mandaluyong City).
  4. ^ Anonuevo, Carlos Antonio Q. (September 2000), Overview of the Gender Situation in the Philippines.
  5. ^ Davis, Leonard (1989).Revolutionary Struggle in the Philippines. United States of America: Palgrave MacMillan. p. 127.
  6. ^ Davis, Leonard (1989). Revolutionary Struggle in the Philippines. United States of America: Palgrave MacMillan. p. 127.
  7. ^ Speech of President Quezon on Woman Suffrage. Official Gazette, September 30, 1936.
  8. ^ Speech of President Quezon on Woman Suffrage. Official Gazette, September 30, 1936.
  9. ^ Guillermo, Artemio R. (2012). Historical Dictionary of the Philippines. Lanham: Scarecrow Press. p. 416.
  10. ^ Guillermo, Artemio R. (2012). Historical Dictionary of the Philippines. Lanham: Scarecrow Press. p. 416.
  11. ^ Iwanaga, Kazuki.Women's Political Participation and Representation in Asia: Obstacles and Challenges. Copenhagen: Nordic Institute of Asian Studies. p. 218.
  12. ^ Philippine Statistics Authority: School Attendance is Higher Among Females than Males (27 December 2013).
  13. ^ Philippine Statistics Authority: School Attendance is Higher Among Females than Males (27 December 2013).
  14. ^ Statement by Hon. Patricia B. Licuanan Commission on Higher Education Republic of the Philippines p. 4.
  15. ^ Statement by Hon. Patricia B. Licuanan Commission on Higher Education Republic of the Philippines p. 4.
  16. ^ Silvestre, Jaylyn. The Rise of Women Leaders in the Philippines. The Berkeley McNair Research Journal. p. 165.
  17. ^ Guillermo, Artemio R. (2012). Historical Dictionary of the Philippines. Lanham: Scarecrow Press. p. 416.
  18. ^ TIME Magazine January 5th, 1987.
  19. ^ Skard, Torild (2015). Women of Power: Half a century of female presidents and prime ministers worldwide. Great Britain: Policy Press. p. 172.
  20. ^ Senate of the Philippines Biography. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  21. ^ 6 senators proclaimed based on 24% of COCs, Rappler. May 16, 2013. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  22. ^ Philippine Statistics Authority (August 2014) Philippine National Demographic and Health Survey 2013 p. 185.
  23. ^ Philippine Statistics Authority (August 2014) Philippine National Demographic and Health Survey 2013 p. 185.
  24. ^ Philippine Statistics Authority (August 2014) Philippine National Demographic and Health Survey 2013 p. 185.
  25. ^ Philippine Statistics Authority (August 2014) Philippine National Demographic and Health Survey 2013 p. 185.
  26. ^ Mallorca-Bernabe, Grace N. (December 2005) A Deeper Look at Violence Against Women. p. 5.
  27. ^ Mallorca-Bernabe, Grace N.(December 2005) Violence Against Women: The Case of the Philippines.Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  28. ^ Philippines Commission on Women, Initiatives to Eliminate Violence against Women. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  29. ^ Center for Reproductive Rights, Facts on Abortion in the Philippines (January 28, 2010).
  30. ^ The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines.
  31. ^ Center for Reproductive Rights, Facts on Abortion in the Philippines (January 28, 2010).
  32. ^ Filipina Women's Network, Philippines: Women Human Rights Defenders Break the Silence on Unsafe Abortion (February 16, 2016).
  33. ^ The Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines.
  34. ^ The Revised Penal Code of the Philippines.
  35. ^ Republic Act No. 7877.
  36. ^ Republic Act No. 9710.
  37. ^ Republic Act No. 9710.
  38. ^ The Republic Act No. 10354.
  39. ^ The Republic Act No. 10354.

External links[edit]