Reproductive rights are human rights
Yesterday, the world marked Human Rights Day, which is, among other occasions, the culmination of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. The 16-day event begins on Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until Dec. 10.
The observance underscores the fact that violence against women (VAW) is a human rights violation. Previously, any discourse on human rights was confined to the political sphere, to the violation of the rights of citizens committed by governments and military forces. It was only in recent years that the rights of women in both the public and private spheres were considered, with degradation, violence and harassment against women and girls recognized as violations of their human rights. This, even if much of the aggression against women was taking place in private: at home, in workplaces, in educational institutions, even in Churches.
Today, the concept of women’s rights as human rights extends to the reproductive sphere, specifically the denial of the right of women to make their own decisions about whether, with whom, how often and in what manner they are to have sex, get pregnant and bear children.
Benjamin de Leon, president of the Forum for Family Planning and Development, notes that while the Philippines ranks among the most gender-equal countries in the world, gender-based violence and the unequal power of men and women to make reproductive health decisions spell a glaring gap in status between the sexes.
The 2018 World Economic Forum’s global gender equality index ranks the Philippines at a high eighth among 149 countries for closing 80 percent of its gender gap in employment, education, political empowerment, health and survival.
But the 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) found that one in four women experience spousal violence; and it is pervasive even before marriage, as the NDHS said 17 percent of girls and women aged 15 to 49 have experienced physical violence.
De Leon lamented that in many communities, violence is still the norm, and men as heads and members of families are the aggressors in majority of cases of violence against women.
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One group of women, though, is determined to do something about the inequality between men and women when it comes to making reproductive health decisions. They are also bent on empowering young women to determine the trajectory of their lives, since early pregnancy has implications on their future, including the ability to provide for their children and carve out a productive life for themselves.
Last Nov. 29, the Zonta Club of Metro Ortigas and the Commission on Population (PopCom NCR) jointly launched, before an audience of a thousand high school students, a comic book, “Kilala Mo Ba Sila?” (“Do You Know Them?”). The comic discusses through a popular and accessible medium the issues surrounding early and unplanned teen pregnancy.
Some 1,800 members in 51 Zonta Clubs in the country are part of Zonta International, which was founded in 1919 to “seek solutions in empowering women through service and advocacy.” Since 1999, Zonta has joined in the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, with focus on ending child marriage.
This year, the Zonta Club of Metro Ortigas decided to promote awareness of the growing problem of early pregnancy by publishing the comic book that, it hopes, “will serve as a basic tool to start a dialog that will lead to doable solutions.”
The Club was motivated by the PopCom — s report that in the Philippines “about 500 teenage girls give birth every day as more adolescents engage in premarital sex, raising concerns about early and unplanned pregnancies in the world’s 13th most populated country.”
“Kilala Mo Ba Sila?”will be made available through partnerships with the Zonta Club of Metro Ortigas and the PopCom.
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