Report of the inquiry concerning Philippines of the CEDAW Committee
Philippines, Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

Report of the inquiry concerning Philippines of the CEDAW Committee

DATE 22-04-2015DOWNLOAD LEGAL DECISION

Topics:

AbortionContraception and Family Planning Sexual Information

Related standards:

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Article 5

RELATED STANDARDS

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Article 5

States Parties shall take all appropriate measures: (a) To modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women; (b) To ensure that family education includes a proper understanding of maternity as a social function and the recognition of the common responsibility of men and women in the upbringing and development of their children, it being understood that the interest of the children is the primordial consideration in all cases.
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Article 10

RELATED STANDARDS

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Article 10

States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in order to ensure to them equal rights with men in the field of education and in particular to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women: (a) The same conditions for career and vocational guidance, for access to studies and for the achievement of diplomas in educational establishments of all categories in rural as well as in urban areas; this equality shall be ensured in pre-school, general, technical, professional and higher technical education, as well as in all types of vocational training; (b) Access to the same curricula, the same examinations, teaching staff with qualifications of the same standard and school premises and equipment of the same quality; (c) The elimination of any stereotyped concept of the roles of men and women at all levels and in all forms of education by encouraging coeducation and other types of education which will help to achieve this aim and, in particular, by the revision of textbooks and school programmes and the adaptation of teaching methods; (d ) The same opportunities to benefit from scholarships and other study grants; (e) The same opportunities for access to programmes of continuing education, including adult and functional literacy programmes, particulary those aimed at reducing, at the earliest possible time, any gap in education existing between men and women; (f) The reduction of female student drop-out rates and the organization of programmes for girls and women who have left school prematurely; (g) The same Opportunities to participate actively in sports and physical education; (h) Access to specific educational information to help to ensure the health and well-being of families, including information and advice on family planning.
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Article 12

RELATED STANDARDS

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Article 12

1. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, access to health care services, including those related to family planning. 2. Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph I of this article, States Parties shall ensure to women appropriate services in connection with pregnancy, confinement and the post-natal period, granting free services where necessary, as well as adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation.
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Article 16

RELATED STANDARDS

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Article 16

1. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations and in particular shall ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women: (a) The same right to enter into marriage; (b) The same right freely to choose a spouse and to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent; (c) The same rights and responsibilities during marriage and at its dissolution; (d) The same rights and responsibilities as parents, irrespective of their marital status, in matters relating to their children; in all cases the interests of the children shall be paramount; (e) The same rights to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights; (f) The same rights and responsibilities with regard to guardianship, wardship, trusteeship and adoption of children, or similar institutions where these concepts exist in national legislation; in all cases the interests of the children shall be paramount; (g) The same personal rights as husband and wife, including the right to choose a family name, a profession and an occupation; (h) The same rights for both spouses in respect of the ownership, acquisition, management, administration, enjoyment and disposition of property, whether free of charge or for a valuable consideration. 2. The betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage and to make the registration of marriages in an official registry compulsory.

WHY IT MATTERS:

Article 8 of the Optional Protocol to the CEDAW Convention provides for inquiries of grave or systematic violations of women’s human rights.

In the instant case, the Committee clarified key issues related to sexual and reproductive rights. It noted that the lack of access to modern contraceptive methods and complete and accurate information on their use disproportionately affected women’s health, leading to unplanned pregnancies, unsafe abortions, unnecessary and preventable maternal deaths, and increased exposure to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. It went on to recommend that the State Party legalize abortion in cases of rape, incest, threats to the life or health of the mother, or serious malformation of the fetus.

The Committee further noted the importance of eliminating economic and social barriers to reproductive health services, so that all women, irrespective of their age and income level, would have equal access to health services.

The Mayor of Manila, Philippines, issued an executive order on the provision of sexual and reproductive health rights, services, and commodities. The order, which was based on the sanctity of life and the protection of the life of the mother and the unborn, established that Manila would uphold natural family planning “not just as a method but as a form of self-awareness in promoting the culture of life.” The enforcement of the order discouraged the use of modern contraceptives and had a negative impact on the sexual and reproductive rights of women.

The CEDAW Committee carried out an inquiry as provided under Article 8 of the Optional Protocol to the CEDAW Convention, finding grave and systematic violations of the sexual and reproductive rights of women in Manila under Articles 12 and 16 of the Convention.

The CEDAW Committee received a joint communication from three NGOs requesting an inquiry into the Philippines regarding the consequences of the enforcement of Executive Order No. 003, issued by the former Mayor of Manila, José L. Atienza. While the order did not expressly prohibit the use of modern contraceptives, it severely limited women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services in practice.

Twenty petitioners from Manila had repeatedly challenged the constitutionality of the order and sought redress before the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court, and the Regional Trial Court (the Osil case). These efforts were unsuccessful.

Based on these facts, the CEDAW Committee launched an inquiry into whether the Philippines failed to comply with its obligations under the CEDAW and was internationally responsible for the events in Manila.

The Committee indicated that, while the order did not explicitly ban modern contraceptives, its implementation resulted in the removal of all supplies of modern contraceptives from healthcare facilities and the refusal to provide women with family planning information and counselling other than on “natural family planning.” Cases of misinformation were documented as well. This had a negative impact on women’s health and lives.

It went on to note that although the order was a local policy document, it was attributable to the State Party, given that municipal offices are state organs, and the State Party is responsible for ensuring compliance with the standards of the Convention by all its organs, including local governments to which powers have been granted.

The Committee therefore considered that the State Party failed to ensure that the local government refrained from engaging in any act or practice of discrimination against women. It further failed to take all measures necessary to modify or abolish existing laws, customs, and practices that constituted discrimination. The Committee cited, for example, the tacit acceptance by the central government of the policies of the Manila government, as well as the insufficient and inadequate measures taken to address the flaws of the Manila healthcare system.

Recalling its general recommendation No. 24, the Committee noted that it is discriminatory for a State Party to refuse to legally provide for the performance of certain reproductive health services for women, and that the differences between men and women as regards certain health issues, such as women’s reproductive functions, must be taken into consideration. The Committee further considered that the principle of substantive equality required States Parties to attend to risk factors that predominantly affect women. Given that only women can become pregnant, lack of access to contraceptives is bound to affect their health disproportionately.

The Committee observed that the lives and health of many women were put at risk during the years when the order was in effect, as they were compelled to have more children than they wanted or than their health permitted them to have. The order led to an increase in unplanned pregnancies, unsafe abortions, unnecessary and preventable maternal deaths, and increased exposure to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

In the Committee’s view, the ban particularly harmed disadvantaged groups of women, including poor women, adolescent girls, and women in abusive relationships. The State Party failed to eliminate economic and social barriers to reproductive health services so that all women, irrespective of age and income level, would have equal access to these services. It recalled that access to sexual and reproductive health services presupposes the availability and affordability of adequate and sustainable services and commodities.

Access was also limited by the failure to provide complete and accurate information to women. In some cases, women received misinformation that did not allow them to make informed decisions, which in turn deprived them of their ability and autonomy to make fundamental and intimate decisions affecting their bodies and lives.

The rights of women to family planning and to exercise their freedom of choice and independence in making decisions with regard to the number and spacing of their children were also violated, exacerbating inequalities between men and women in marriage and family relations.

The policy reinforced discriminatory and prejudicial gender stereotypes about women that their primary role was as child bearers and child rearers, which in turn further contributed to the belief that it was acceptable to deny women access to modern methods of contraception based on of their role as mothers.

Based on all the above, the Committee found that these were not isolated cases, and that the systematic nature of the violations was evident from the prevalent pattern of violations that occurred as a result of official policies disproportionately affecting women and discriminating against them by placing a certain ideology above their well-being.


Based on all the above, the Committee found violations of the following articles:

1. Articles 2 d), 2 f), and 12: When the executive order was issued, the State Party failed to ensure that the local government refrained from engaging in any act or practice of discrimination against women. It further failed to take all measures necessary to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs, and practices that constituted discrimination against women.

2. Articles 12 and 10 h): The State Party failed to ensure access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health services and commodities, including information and counseling on modern methods of family planning.

3. Article 16 1) e): The State Party undermined the right of women to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children.

4. Articles 5 and 12: Gender stereotypes prejudicial to women were reinforced, given that the orders incorporated and conveyed stereotyped images of women’s primary role as child bearers and child rearers.

5. Articles 2 c) and 12: The State Party failed to put in place a system to ensure effective judicial protection and to provide effective judicial remedies for human rights violations experienced by women in Manila as a result of Executive Order No. 003.

Based on the above, the Committee made recommendations to the State Party, including the following:

a) To guarantee universal access to the full range of reproductive health services and information for women, including the reintroduction of emergency contraception in the State Party;

b) To ensure that systematic training on sexual and reproductive health rights, services, and commodities is provided to health-care professionals;

c) To ensure that Executive Orders Nos. 003 and 030 are officially revoked, and that women are informed of such revocation;

d) To legalize abortion in cases of rape, incest, threats to the life or health of the mother, or serious malformation of the fetus;

e) To ensure that local government units put in place effective legal remedies for women seeking redress for violations of their right of access to sexual and reproductive health services;

f) To ensure that state policies and legislation give priority to the protection of women’s health rights over any religious postulates;

g) To ensure that training on sexual and reproductive health rights, services, and commodities is provided to healthcare professionals.


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