Archive for August, 2006

EnGendeRights Presents Their Joint Shadow Report to CEDAW By Clara Rita A. Padilla, August 17, 2006

August 30, 2006

EnGendeRights, represented by Atty. Clara Rita A. Padilla,  presented highlights on their Shadow Report last Monday, August 14, before the Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) during its 36th Session in New York.    The Shadow Report was drafted in collaboration with the Center for Reproductive Rights, Reproductive Rights Resource Group Philippines (3RG-Phils.), and Health and Development Initiatives Institute, independent non-governmental organizations. 

The Shadow Report was submitted to CEDAW, the committee that monitors the implementation of the rights protected in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Women’s Convention), as an alternative report to the periodic report submitted by the Republic of the Philippines.

In Atty. Padilla’s oral presentation before CEDAW, she tackled issues including the lack access to information and reproductive health care services, discriminatory marriage laws, violence against women and sexual orientation.

 She brought to the attention of the CEDAW experts the fact that, “The government has curtailed access to modern contraceptives.  The Department of Health (DOH) only promotes “natural family planning” while leaving the Population Commission to promote modern methods of contraception.”  She added that, “Amidst the impending withdrawal of foreign funds to distribute condoms, the DOH awarded a 50 million peso contract to a Catholic church-backed group to promote natural family planning.”  Atty. Padilla continued by saying that, “Although the DOH clarified that they did not ban IUDs, they have not provided the proper budget to make IUDs and other modern methods of contraception accessible to women.”  She then called for the Philippine government to “to make the full range of modern contraceptives available to women.”

 On the issue of the delisting of Postinor, an emergency contraceptive, in 2001, Atty. Padilla brought to the attention of CEDAW that, “Postinor continues to be delisted despite the recommendation by the Special Committee to re-list it..” She pointed the fact that, “The government must make emergency contraception available to rape victims as part of routine emergency health care and to women, in general, to prevent unwanted pregnancies.”

 Atty. Padilla continued by stating that, “Philippine law penalizes women who undergo abortion without providing express exceptions on life, health, rape or fetal impairment.” She brought to the attention of CEDAW the alarming statistics in the Philippines where, “Women do not have access to safe and legal abortion despite statistics in 2000 showing 473,000 women who induced abortions; 79,000 women hospitalized for complications; and 800 women died due to complications.”  Atty. Padilla emphatically stated that, “Having ratified CEDAW, the government should fulfill its obligation to make abortion safe and legal.”

 She added that, “The Department of Education withdrew its Lesson Guide on Reproductive Health [and sex education] for Adolescents after receiving comments from conservative religious groups” and that it is important to continue sex education for adolescents.  Atty. Padilla stressed the importance of the enactment of a specific law to ensure women’s reproductive and sexual rights.

 On the issue of violence against women, Atty. Padilla cited the fact that there are judges who do not issue Protection Orders despite petitions filed under the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act.  She added that there are also judges who refuse to issue contempt orders on husband’s/partners who violate protection orders.  She brought to the attention of CEDAW the fact that there are still many rape complaints that are dismissed in the Preliminary Investigation level and in the Regional Trial Level.  She then called for “continuous trainings for members of the judiciary concerning gender-based violence.”  Further, Atty. Padilla stated that, “At present, women in prostitution are still penalized, hence, the need to remove the punitive provisions imposed on women in prostitution.”     

 On the issue of marriage, Atty. Padilla stated the need for absolute (no-fault) divorce and she stated certain discriminatory provisions in the Muslim Code that needed to be repealed including the provisions allowing polygamy and allowing marriage at the age of fifteen for Muslims.

 Lastly, on the issue of sexual orientation, Atty. Padilla called for the legal recognition of domestic partnerships or civil unions for lesbians. 

 Yesterday, August 16, EnGendeRights and 3RG-Phils. Submitted a “Summary of Concerns Raised in the Shadow Report” to CEDAW stating additional recommendations including:

 1) The government must enact a specific Reproductive Health Care law that ensures women’s reproductive and sexual rights regardless of who is the head of the executive branches of the government;

 2) Repeal the discriminatory provisions in the Family Code including the provisions providing that the husband’s decision prevails over the wife in cases where there is disagreement on the administration or enjoyment of community property and over the exercise of parental authority;

 3) Repeal the discriminatory provisions in the Muslim Code including the provisions on arranged marriages (females aged 12-14), the husband is given the authority to choose the family residence, the husband can deny his permission to his wife to practice a profession or occupation of her choice;

 4) Repeal the criminal provisions on adultery and concubinage.

 Under the Revised Penal Code, a married woman commits “adultery” if she has sexual intercourse with a man other than her husband. On the other hand, a married male can be convicted of “concubinage” only if his mistress cohabits with him in the conjugal dwelling or in another dwelling, or if he has intercourse with a woman other than his wife under “scandalous” circumstances.  The penalty imposed for the woman in adultery is higher than for males in concubinage. 

 The intended purpose of the criminal provision on adultery is protect the rights of real heirs.  However, many adultery cases are filed by estranged husbands who have long been separated from their wives and who have no intention of reuniting with their wives nor do they have any intention of supporting the illegitimate child of their wives.  Many adultery cases are filed to harass women and sometime to threaten and coerce them to transfer contested property in the name of the estranged husband.  In many countries around the world, the criminal provisions imposed on adultery have already been repealed. 

 5) Repeal the discriminatory provisions in the Revised Penal Code imposed on women. The Penal Code penalizes widows, divorced women or women whose marriages have been annulled or dissolved if they get married within 301 days from the death, divorce or separation of their husbands.  No such constraints are imposed on the men. 

 6) The right to custody of a lesbian mother, whether her child be below seven or above seven, should be protected.

 7) The proposed bill prohibiting discrimination against homosexuals including discrimination against homosexuals in work and education environments must be enacted into law.

 (Please see the attached files on Summary of Concerns Raised in the Shadow Report, Shadow Report and Talking Points for statistics and more information on the recommendations that we submitted to the committee. Also, please see the attached Division for the Advancement of Women initial press releases on the CEDAW 36th Session for additional background on the 36th Session)