The UN Human Rights Committee is finally putting pressure on the Philippines to pass a number of much-needed legislative reforms such as the legalization of divorce.
At its Nov. 4 session on Ethiopia, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Nicaragua, Philippines, and the Russian Federation, the independent body concluded, among other things, that the country needed to step up in preventing violence against women and protecting survivors.
“The Committee remains concerned by the lack of information on the impact of these measures and the continuing underreporting of cases of violence against women, due in part to the authorities’ failure to bring the perpetrators to justice,” reads the session document suggesting, among other things, to expedite the legalization of divorce to protect survivors from their spouses.
As we’ve said before, the lack of a cheap and accessible option to end a marriage like divorce means they will continue to be isolated with their abusers.
And it’s not as if there have not been any efforts to legalize it. As far back as 1999, possibly even further back, there have been countless proposals to introduce absolute divorce to the country. And yet, these bills continue to languish in Congress. A divorce bill was approved by the House on its third reading in 2018. Another one was put up for plenary debates in 2021. Just taking a cursory Google search, I’m able to count at least six bills. So what gives? Why is there no sense of urgency to pass such a necessary bill? I’m with the UN on this one.
Similarly, the independent body noted that abortion being criminalized here hurts women. Because there are no legal and safe methods to terminate a pregnancy here, many women, particularly poor women from marginalized communities, turn to unsafe, back-alley abortions that often end in deaths. That is why we say that abortion is a human right.
Another bill that the UN says needs expediting? The SOGIE bill. The committee noted the several anti-discrimination bills that are floating around (the Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Bills and the Anti-Discrimination Bills on the Basis of Race, Ethnicity and Religion), but that it “remain[ed] concerned by the delay in adopting these bills.” It also pointed out that there are “continuing reports of discriminatory practices and attitudes towards persons with disabilities, lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons, Muslims, and Indigenous peoples.”
It highlighted the Revised Penal Code’s “grave scandal” provision that would expose queer people to police harassment and extortion, people with disabilities facing inadequate living situations, anti-Muslim discrimination, and Indigenous people lacking access to health care and social services.
The other suggestions of the UN Committee included stepping up gender equality in the public and private sectors (especially considering that female critics of the past administration were “summarily removed from their judicial and elected positions while male critics have not been punished”), putting an end to extrajudicial killings (and the harassment against people fighting for justice), and reviewing and amending the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, noting that it “legitimize[s] the targeting of government critics, human rights defenders and journalists.”
To see its other recommendations, you can view this link.
Photo by Mathias Reding on Unsplash
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