PCW, women’s groups push for Senate review of laws unfair to women

The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), the  government agency mandated as the primary policy-making, coordinating and monitoring body on women and gender equality, presented the discriminatory laws needing amendment,  during the hearing of the Senate Committee on Youth, Women and Family Relations on August 12, 2010.

PCW Deputy Director Lorenza Umali together with other representatives of women’s groups namely, Atty. Bing Guanzon of the UP College of Law,  Atty. Clara Rita Padilla of Engenderights,  Dr. Sylvia Claudio of  UP College of Social Work, Ms. Amina Rasul-Bernardo, representatives from DSWD Policy and Planning Bureau, DILG – NBOO and DOLE advocated for the repeal or amendment of discriminatory laws as Priority Legislative Agenda (PLA).

Citing provisions under the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of  Discrimination (CEDAW)  and Republic Act 9710 also known as the Magna Carta of Women (MCW), the PCW is calling for the enactment of national legislations that promote, protect and address the human rights of women. The Women’s PLA which the PCW will push for immediate passage in the 15th Congress include the following:

  1. Amendment and repeal of certain provisions of the Revised Penal Code
    • Marital Infidelity Bill to amend Articles 333 and 334 –Adultery and Concubinage
    • Anti-Prostitution Bill to amend Article 202 on Vagrancy and Prostitutes
    • Article 251 on Pre-mature Marriages
  2. Amendment and repeal of certain provisions of the New Family Code
  3. Amendment to RA 8353 or the Anti-Rape Law of 1997
  4. Domestic Workers’ Rights or the  Kasambahay Bill
  5. Magna Carta of Workers in the Informal Economy
  6. Local Sectoral Representation Bill
  7. Reproductive Health Bill
  8. Strengthening the Code of Muslim Personal Law, amending early and arranged marriages
  9. Amendment of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Law

The PCW urges the Committee on Youth, Women and Family Relations chairperson and members to immediately file the corresponding bills for immediate deliberations of these proposed priority legislative agenda.

Section 12 of the Magna Carta of Women (RA 9710) enacted in 2009, provides a duration of three-year to review, amend or repeal, when necessary, existing laws that are discriminatory to women.

Among the laws cited in the Magna Carta of Women are: Articles 14, 96, 124, 211, and 225 of the Family Code, on the provision giving preference to the father’s consent to the marriage of children between the ages of 18 and 21, and on the provision upholding the husband’s decision on conjugal disagreements over property, parental authority and legal guardianship; Article 130 of the Labor Code which prohibits nightwork for women; Articles 266 (c), 333 and 334 of the Revised Penal Code which cover marital rape and the grounds for adultery and concubinage; and Articles 16, 122, 162 and 180 of the Code of Muslim Personal Laws which govern early and arranged marriage, polygamy and unequal inheritance.

“The conviction for committing adultery and concubinage are very discriminatory to women. For the wife, sexual infidelity means one act of sexual intercourse.  For the man, it is sexual intercourse under scandalous circumstances with a woman who is not his wife, keeping another woman in the conjugal abode, or cohabitation with her in another dwelling.  Moreover, a wife in an adultery case incurs a heavier penalty than a husband in a concubinage case”,  says PCW Deputy Director Umali.

Another law needing amendment is RA 8353 or the Anti-Rape Law which provides for the removal of criminal liability of rapist by marrying the victim and the subsequent forgiveness by the wife as the offended party.

“On the other hand, if we are to follow an antiquated law that prohibits nightwork for women, then all female employees working on night shift, such as call center agents, are unwittingly violating the law”, says Senator Pia Cayetano, Chair of the Senate Committee on Youth, Women and Family Relations.

“This provision was framed by lawmakers several decades ago, purportedly to ‘protect’ women and to discourage certain ‘professions’ then associated with women working at night such as prostitution,” she explained. “But times have changed and so laws like these must also be revised, accordingly.”