AMONG THE fears being raised about the passage into law of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law is that it would enshrine certain provisions in the Sharia Law, particularly those condemning women to a subordinate role in society.
But in a statement of support for the BBL’s passage, the women’s group Pilipina (disclosure: I am national chair of the organization) says it believes “women and children of Mindanao have a greater chance to live in peace, freedom and security with the passage of proposed BBL.”
The BBL could help them achieve these goals first because it adopts the principle of gender equality, and like the Constitution recognizes the “fundamental equality before the law of women and men.”
In addition, the BBL recognizes the “basic right of women to meaningful political participation and protection from all forms of violence.”
Thus, it is foreseen that the proposed BBL will give Bangsamoro women “a voice in governance and decision-making, so that they can infuse policies and programs with recognition of and respect for gender equality and women’s rights.”
As stated in the draft BBL, women’s representation in high-level policy and decision-making is guaranteed, particularly through a reserved seat for women in the Bangsamoro Parliament and the appointment of at least one woman in the Cabinet, with women representatives likewise required in the Bangsamoro Council of Leaders,
advising the chief minister and the Bangsamoro Transition Authority. The Pilipina statement points out, though, that “these minimal numbers cannot, at the outset, ensure that women’s voices will be heard or their votes counted in governance.” But still, even this minimum “can provide an opening for women to gain a firm foothold in the Bangsamoro political arena.”
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THROUGH the BBL, it was pointed out, a “governance framework” is being set for Bangsamoro women and girls to enjoy opportunities and the benefits of economic and social development. Much of these hinges on the use of the Gender and Development (GAD) budget, already in place all over the country and in all government entities.
“For more than three decades now,” the Pilipina statement says, the organization “has devoted its advocacy and work towards Filipino women’s empowerment, especially for women who have been deprived of their rights and systematically excluded or discriminated because they are poor and marginalized due to their cultures and beliefs. Pilipina has advocated gender-responsive policies and legislation—including the Magna Carta of Women (MCW)—the fire on top, and built women’s leadership in governance, the fire from below, in forging the women’s empowerment agenda.”
The women in the proposed Bangsamoro areas have been a particular concern, mainly because “they have suffered intensely in their loss of loved ones, homes and treasured possessions, and dashed hopes for their children’s wellbeing and future. These same women hold up more than half of their communities’ social safety net, weighed down by centuries of discrimination and neglect. These women now muster strength to heave their safety net, buoyed up by their dreams, onto the ark of Bangsamoro self-reliance.”
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IN THE same statement, Pilipina cited Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles (founding chair of Pilipina) and GPH (Government of the Philippines) Peace Panel Chair Miriam
Coronel-Ferrer, who, it said, “have invested their time and talents with grit and gusto—at the GPH-MILF peace table and with communities on the ground—to craft a peace agreement and animate a more crucial peace process.”
Now is the time “to bring the Bangsamoro women to the ‘front and center’ of governance. After more than four decades of tenacious struggle, it is time for the Bangsamoro to move onto an empowering political platform, whence the women and men can equally create their path to sustainable development in an environment of peace, freedom and security.”
Indeed, while women and groups like Pilipina throw their support behind the BBL, we are all aware that the main bearers of the cause are Bangsamoro women themselves, for it is their lives, their future and their children’s future that are at stake. If Bangsamoro women stand steadfast behind the BBL, who are we to stand in their way?
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ANOTHER piece of good news for women are the recent findings of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw) that a “ban” on the use of family planning methods other than natural family planning was a “grave and systematic violation of women’s rights.”
The findings refer to an executive order (denied officially but enforced through formal and informal sanctions) by the Manila city administration then under Mayor Lito Atienza in 2000, which declared Manila a “prolife city” and discouraged the use of modern contraceptives. The inquiry measured the adverse impact on the health and lives of women affected by the order.
“This is historic. This is only the second inquiry conducted (under the Optional Protocol of Cedaw) and the first on sexual and reproductive health and rights,” said lawyer Clara Rita Padilla of EnGender Rights, which together with WomenLead convened local and international groups in submitting the inquiry to Cedaw. “With the release of the findings, we hope that the Philippine government will comply with its international treaty obligations to ensure that the women and girls in Manila and throughout the Philippines are not discriminated against in accessing sexual and reproductive health services,” Padilla added.