To cap off the National Women’s Month, the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) held the Mangrove Forum on International Relations titled “Status of Philippine Compliance to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)” on 31 March 2017 at the Carlos P. Romulo Library, Department of Foreign Affairs. UN CEDAW Committee Member Ret. Ambassador Rosario G. Manalo was the guest speaker and Ms. Jelen C. Paclarin, Executive Director of Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB) and Ms. Jona Marie P. Ang, also from WLB, served as discussants.
Ambassador Manalo discussed the Philippines’ compliance to CEDAW, which was demonstrated through the signing of the Magna Carta of Women (MCW) on 14 August 2009. She also highlighted the Philippines’ progress in the adoption of pending bills which seek to amend discriminatory provisions in existing laws and enactment of laws significant to Filipino women. The Anti-Rape Law and other VAW-related laws, for instance, were amended to redefine the crime of rape.
In addition, Ambassador Manalo noted that the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) organizes consultations among Muslims stakeholders to address the discriminatory provisions under the Code of Muslim Personal Laws (CMPL). There are also interventions among rural, indigenous, and Muslim women to promote equal rights and opportunities. She also stressed government efforts in gender mainstreaming by integrating the gender dimension in the national, sectoral, and local development plans. Efforts are also being made by various agencies and sectors to eliminate patriarchal attitudes and gender role stereotyping.
The Philippines also made major policy steps regarding trafficking of women and migrant workers’ rights. Ambassador Manalo stated that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is promoting the ratification of the Palermo Protocol on trafficking in persons and the full and effective implementation of the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons and adopts measures to protect migrant workers under the Migrant Workers Act (RA 8042). She asserted the importance of women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services as well as women’s political participation at the policymaking and leadership levels.
Ms. Jelen Paclarin and Ms. Ang discussed a WLB-co-initiated report titled “Philippine Shadow Report: Access to Justice of the Marginalized Women in the Philippines”, which looks into women’s access to opportunities, issue of equality and how it is felt by women, and the impact of natural disasters. Ms. Paclarin stressed that there is still lack of attention given to marginalized sectors, particularly women with disabilities, indigenous women, the Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (LBT), and women with HIV and AIDS. Marginalized women experience poverty, multiple discrimination structural inequalities, and dearth of economic opportunities. There is also limited capacity for dealing with disaster and climate change and disasters are seen as some gender-neutral phenomena, thus ignoring the needs of women in disaster response. Ms. Ong added that in the context of disasters, women remain invisible in government records due to lack of comprehensive and updated sex and gender disaggregated data. In addition, there is proliferation of VAW, low prioritization of women’s sexual and reproductive health, difficulty accessing livelihood, and limited political participation. She stated that women’s rights violations remain persistent and pervasive even in the absence of disasters.
In the open forum, a point was raised on the inclusivity of the marginalized women, particularly women with disabilities, in the Magna Carta of Women. It was pointed out that the definition of women with disabilities needs to be seen not from the medical model, in which disabled women are defined on the basis of medical diagnosis, but from the human rights model, which affirms that all human beings – irrespective of their disabilities – are born with equal rights and dignity. In addition, Ambassador Manalo also stressed that the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) should work closely with the legislature to ensure the implementation of CEDAW given the issues the Philippine Congress are facing on women’s rights.