Monday, January 08, 2007

CEDAW Issues its Concluding Comments and Urges the Philippines to Fulfill its Obligations Under the Women's Convention

(press release by Clara Rita A. Padilla, J.D.)

August 25, 2006, United Nations, New York -- The United Nations Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) issued its Advance Unedited Concluding Comments on its recently-concluded review of the Philippine government’s report held during its 36th Session from August 7-25.

CEDAW is the committee tasked to monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Women’s Convention), The Concluding Comments contains CEDAW’s observations and recommendations on the de facto and de jure equality of women in the Philippines and the obligation of the Philippines under the Women’s Convention to eliminate discrimination against women.

“CEDAW issued a very holistic and reality-based Concluding Comments that urges the Philippine government and the Filipino populace to face the hard realities that Filipino women experience in our country and to act on them accordingly,” says Atty. Clara Rita A. Padilla, Executive Director of EnGendeRights. Atty. Padilla submitted their collaborative Shadow Report to CEDAW, presented at the CEDAW-NGO dialogue at the UN and actively lobbied with the CEDAW experts. EnGendeRights drafted their collaborative Shadow Report together with the Center for Reproductive Rights, Reproductive Rights Resource Group-Philippines (3RG-Phils), and Health Development Initiatives Institute.

CEDAW raised its concern about the “x x Convention [having] been in force in the State party for 25 years” and “the lack of progress in undertaking and completing necessary revisions of discriminatory provisions in national legislation and in enacting a comprehensive legal framework pertaining to gender equality.”

The Committee raised its concerns about the Anti-Rape Law of 1997 provision extinguishing the criminal action upon subsequent forgiveness by the wife. In relation to trafficking of women and girls, CEDAW urged the Philippines “to provide them with educational and economic opportunities, thereby reducing and eliminating their vulnerability to exploitation and traffickers” and the “reintegration of [women in prostitution] into society and provide rehabilitation, social integration and economic empowerment programmes to women and girls who are victims of exploitation and trafficking.” It urged the Philippines to “prosecute and punish traffickers and those who exploit the prostitution of women, and provide protection to victims of trafficking.”

“I’m particularly very excited about the recommendations the Committee raised on health especially because the Committee recommended for the Philippines as a State Party to ‘consider reviewing the laws relating to abortion with a view to removing punitive provisions imposed on women who undergo abortion and provide them with access to quality services for the management of complications arising from unsafe abortions and to reduce women’s maternal mortality rates in line with the Committee’s general recommendation 24 on women and health and the Beijing Platform for Action,’” says Atty. Padilla.

“The Committee also raised its concerns on the ‘existing discriminatory provisions of the Code of Muslim Personal Laws, which permit marriage of girls under the age of 18, polygamy and arranged marriages,’ ‘the practice of early Marriage… among Muslim women,’ and ‘encourage[d] the State party to intensify dialogue with the Muslim community in order to remove discriminatory provisions from the Code of Muslim Personal Laws,’” Atty. Padilla added.

CEDAW expressed “its concern about the lack of a law on divorce, making it impossible for women to obtain legal divorce” and urged the Philippines “to introduce and support vigorously legislation which permits divorce, allows women to remarry after divorce, and grants women and men the same rights to administer property during marriage and equal rights to property on divorce.”

CEDAW requests “the wide dissemination in the Philippines of the present concluding comments in order to make the people, including government officials, politicians, parliamentarians and women’s and human rights organizations, aware of the steps that have been taken to ensure de jure and de facto equality of women, as well as the further steps that are required in that regard.”

Reflecting on all their efforts in drafting their Shadow Report and lobbying with the CEDAW experts and the CEDAW’s Concluding Comments, Atty. Padilla said, “It’s like arguing in court and winning the case. Although I would have wanted for them to also issue their recommendations on the right to sexual orientation, I’m quite pleased with the Committee’s Concluding Comments.”

“A lot of our hard work paid off. We gave the CEDAW experts all kinds of materials from the Shadow Report, highlights/talking points, oral presentation, to our recommendations and even slips of paper with our comments. It’s just a question of the people in government recognizing their full obligation to eliminate discrimination against women in laws and policies and the implementation of these laws and policies. It’s time to spread the word,” Atty. Padilla continued.

The travel grant of EnGendeRights and 3RG-Phils to present their collaborative Shadow Report at CEDAW’s session in New York was through the assistance of Canada Fund, Cordaid, and Global Fund for Women and the upcoming CEDAW Post-Session to be conducted by EnGendeRights to popularize the Concluding Comments is through the assistance of Canada Fund.

For a copy of the Concluding Comments, please click on the following link:

Additional Information:

Paragraph 27 of the Concluding Comments states:

“The Committee expresses its concern about the inadequate recognition and protection of the reproductive health and rights of women in the Philippines. The Committee is concerned about the high maternal mortality rates particularly the number of deaths resulting from induced abortions, high fertility rates, inadequate family planning services, the low rates of contraceptive use and difficulties in obtaining contraceptives. It is also concerned about the lack of sex education, especially in rural areas. It is concerned at the high rate of teenage pregnancies, which present a significant obstacle to girls’ educational opportunities and economic empowerment.”

Paragraph 28 the Concluding Comments states:

“The Committee urges the State party to take concrete measures to enhance women’s access to health care, in particular to sexual and reproductive health services, in accordance with article 12 of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation 24 on women and health. It requests the State party to strengthen measures aimed at the prevention of unwanted pregnancies, including by making a comprehensive range of contraceptives more widely available and affordable and without any restriction and by increasing knowledge and awareness about family planning. The Committee recommends that the State party give priority attention to the situation of adolescents and that it provide sex education, targeted at girls and boys, with special attention to the prevention of early pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. The Committee urges the State party to consider the problem of unsafe abortion as a matter of high priority. The Committee recommends that the State party consider reviewing the laws relating to abortion with a view to removing punitive provisions imposed on women who undergo abortion and provide them with access to quality services for the management of complications arising from unsafe abortions and to reduce women’s maternal mortality rates in line with the Committee’s general recommendation 24 on women and health and the Beijing Platform for Action.”

Paragraph 30 the Concluding Comments states:

“30. The Committee calls on the State party to pay special attention to the needs of rural women, indigenous women and Muslim women living in the autonomous region of Muslim Mindanao, ensuring that they have access to health care, social security, education, clean water and sanitation services, fertile land, income -generation opportunities and participation in decision - making pr ocesses. The Committee recommends that the State party ensures women’s access to justice through the provision of legal aid and takes steps to prosecute perpetrators of violence against them. It also encourages the State party to provide increased educational opportunities to Muslim girls to discourage early marriages. X x x”

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