As August 2022 marks the 13th year of the country’s comprehensive women’s human rights law, Magna Carta of Women (Republic Act 9710), the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) amplifies the call to strengthen the implementation of this landmark law toward the empowerment of all women and girls.
As the local translation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women’s (CEDAW), the MCW encompasses various aspects in the life of a woman. It aims to prevent discrimination against women in all spheres, allow them to take part in building the nation, promote their empowerment and equal opportunities, protect their rights, advance their representation and participation in all areas, and ensure the substantive equality of women and men.
Timely enough, the MCW anniversary comes weeks after the statement of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in his State of the Nation Address (SONA), signifying the administration’s intention to reinforce programs on Violence Against Women (VAW) and their Children, including counselling for victims, working closely with local government units (LGUs).
In line with the State’s mandate to ensure that all women are protected from all forms of violence under MCW and other relevant laws, the PCW reminds all agencies, especially duty-holders, to defend women against gender-based offenses and aid them in seeking justice and healing.
Specifically, RA 9710 mandates that there should be steady increase in the recruitment and training of women in police force, forensics, medico-legal, legal and social work services, women must be protected in situations of armed conflict and militarization, and personnel involved in the protection and defense of women against gender-based violence shall undergo a mandatory training on human rights and gender sensitivity.
Towards this end, the PCW emphasizes the importance of establishing and ensuring the functionality of Barangay VAW Desks, as mandated by MCW. The FY 2019 data of the Department of the Interior and Local Government show that 92.85% or 39,039 out of over 42,000 barangays have existing VAW desks. The Barangay VAW Desk Functionality Report (as of January 31, 2022) shows that of the 33,961 barangays assessed, only 36% have achieved the ideal level of functionality, while 48% reached the mature level.
With this, the PCW fully supports the statement of Interior and Local Government Secretary, Atty. Benjamin C. Abalos, Jr, calling on all barangays and local government units to “strengthen protective programs, counselling and support services for women who are victims of abuse and solo parents alike because they run to you [LGUs] first when they have concerns and problems.” Indeed, the barangays being in the frontline, must be capacitated in responding to VAW cases and providing adequate, gender-sensitive, and appropriate services to victim-survivors.
Aside from addressing VAW, MCW laid the groundwork for the advancement of women’s rights in all aspects and for thirteen years, it has been the anchor and basis of other laws that served to preserve these rights.
With MCW, strides towards Gender and Development (GAD) have been made in the past decade, albeit gradually and not without obstacles. In fact, the Global Gender Gap Report shows that the country ranks 17th out of 146 countries, in terms of closing the gender gap, notably the leading country in Asia in this realm.
However, we have yet to see MCW’s full effects in fruition. The labor force participation rate of women is still lower compared to men. Women leaders are still outnumbered. Juanas are still burdened by unpaid care work. Some courses or jobs are still dominated by men. Some pregnant women still receive unfair treatment. Legislations that seek to amend or repeal discriminatory provisions in our laws remain pending in Congress.
Thus, the PCW takes this opportunity to remind, or moreso, challenge duty-bearers to give life to the letters of the law so it will translate to concrete impacts on the lives of Juanas. Let us all strive until there is: equal treatment of men and women before the law, security of women in times of disaster, calamities, and other crisis situations, equal access to and elimination of discrimination in education, scholarships, and training, participation in sports, eradication of discrimination of women in the military, police, and other similar services, and non-discriminatory and non-derogatory portrayal of Juanas in media and film, gender-responsive health services, participation and equitable representation of women in all spheres of society, special leave benefits following surgery caused by gynecological disorders, and equal rights in matters relative to marriage and family relations. For the marginalized sector, lock the targets on food security, decent work standards, housing, social protection, peace and development, cultural preservation, skills training, and employment, livelihood, credit, capital, and technology, and others.
MCW at 13 is about strengthening, reinforcing, and influencing. MCW at 13 is about fortifying gender mainstreaming. For this, the PCW counts on all the GADvocates to work tirelessly towards the comprehensive and impactful implementation of the Magna Carta of Women.