An RH law for Christmas is a gift for stable families and safe adolescence

“We thank our legislators in the House of Representatives for passing the much awaited Reproductive Health (RH) bill on second reading. We anticipate the House and Senate to approve it before we break for the Christmas holidays,” Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) Chairperson Remedios I. Rikken expresses with optimism.

PCW Executive Director Emmeline L. Verzosa commended the majority of the House legislators for abiding by the State obligations to international human rights commitments such the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The current Philippine Constitution, created in 1987, “adopts generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land” (Article 2, Section2).

“House Bill no. 4244 or An Act providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development” when signed into law will complement the provisions of Republic Act no. 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women (MCW). An RH law will address the reproductive health needs and rights of women, men and adolescents,” Verzosa says.

Verzosa explains that “while women’s health services are included in Section 17 of the MCW, these are limited to health services for women.” Under this provision the State is mandated to provide comprehensive, culture-sensitive, and gender-responsive health services and programs covering all stages of a woman’s life cycle and which addresses the major causes of women’s mortality and morbidity.”

The recognition of the crucial role and responsibility of men in reproductive health and responsible parenthood, and the need for proper information on reproductive health and sexuality for adolescents, two of the major provisions of HB 4244 not specifically spelled-out in the MCW, are viewed by the PCW as important provisions.

Referring to the obligation of LGUs, Verzosa cites the Local Government Code’s provision on citizen’s Right to Health. LGUs have devolved functions and exercise certain powers and functions within their jurisdiction but these are not absolute and are subject to the Constitution and national laws. “’Devolution and local autonomy are not an excuse to deny citizens their right to health, which requires the provision of comprehensive reproductive health information and services. These are not just about family planning. RH services also include sexuality education especially for teenagers, male involvement, infertility, sexually transmitted diseases, and addressing gender-based violence. Our goal is for the provision of services at all levels of government, from national to local,” Verzosa stresses.

“An RH law will build stable and happy Filipino families; parents do not have to juggle two or three jobs at a time, or suffer with a budget that cannot sustain more than the number of children they can afford,” Verzosa says.

“We would like men to be responsible fathers and enjoy parenting, too, and have more quality time to happily enjoy the feeling of being a parent. That is gender equality. This is exactly the spirit we want for Christmas,” Rikken states.

PCW is keen on making sure salient provisions, such as sexuality education, in the House and Senate versions are kept. “Sexuality education, not just ‘sex education,’ is for preventive information. “Young people jump blindly into relationships without fully understanding the consequences of early sex. They need to understand and appreciate the growing demands of their bodies, and parents and teachers need training to make them see this, Rikken explains.

“They need to learn to take time to scrutinize their prospective partners first. Make sure their prospects will not turn out to be violent if they refuse or stop being sexually intimate,” Rikken adds.

“Young people need to know when and how to protect themselves. If we deny them preventive and protective information, we deny them human rights,” Verzosa warns.

“All we want for Christmas is a gift for stable and happy families, with fathers and mothers enjoying responsible parenthood, and children lavished with love and attention. RH is pro-family, pro-nation and pro-genuine development,” Rikken concludes.