On Gender Equality and Women’s Human Rights

A. Sexual Harassment

The law prohibits sexual harassment, and violations are punishable by imprisonment of not less than one month and not more than six months, and/or a fine of not less than 10,000 pesos ($200) and not more than 20,000 pesos ($400).

B. Discrimination

In law but not always in practice, women have most of the rights and protections accorded to men, and the law seeks to eliminate discrimination against women. The law accords women the same property rights as men. In Muslim and indigenous communities, however, property ownership law or tradition grant men more property rights than women.

In other developments in relation to creating a safe environment for women in the Philippines, there had been documented instances where President Duterte has displayed blatant disregard for the dignity and human rights of Filipino women.

On January 31, 2018, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) criticized President Rodrigo Duterte’s remarks that the Philippines would “offer 42 virgins” to those who would visit the country, saying it is “utterly degrading” for Filipinas.

In a statement by CHR spokesperson, Atty Jacquelyn De Guia, the CHR pointed out the President Duterte’s remarks, even as a joke, are “appalling” as these objectify women. These kinds of repeated sexist remarks strip Filipino women of their dignity and human rights. It diminishes women’s ownership of their bodies and reduces them to mere sexual objects,” the agency said. It is utterly degrading for Filipino women to be spoken of in such manner, even as a joke, by the highest official of the land. President Duterte made the remark before Indian and Filipino businessmen in India during his state visit last January.

In another episode of misogynistic utterance, President Rodrigo Duterte came under fire after ordering soldiers to shoot female communist rebels in the vagina. The statement was made during a dinner in the company of 217 former communist rebels in Malacañang last Wednesday night, Feb. 7, where it prompted laughter from the audience. President Duterte was found repeatedly mentioning the word “bisong” to his guests, which translates to “vagina” in Bisaya.

On May 25, 2018. the Commission on Human Rights released a statement saying “Women, like men, are capable and competent” as a response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s remark that some jobs are not for women. President Duterte once again drew flak for making a misogynistic remark, implying that women cannot withstand threats and intimidation. “I believe in women, the competence and capability. But not all in life. It should be the case. It’s not appropriate when you cannot stand threats and intimidation,” the chief executive said. President Duterte made the remark days after the online campaign #BabaeAko was launched. The movement seeks to denounce the president’s misogyny and machismo.

There was another instance of President Duterte uttering a rape joke. Reacting to a PNP report that Davao City has the highest incidence of rape, President Duterte remarked that the high number of rape cases in Davao was because the city “has many beautiful women”. Such trivialization of the gravity of rape cases earned the President widespread criticism from various women’s groups and including the Philippine Commission on Women, a government body with the mandate to champion the cause of women.

C. On Rights of LGBTQAI+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Asexual, Intersect, plus)

In June 2018, the Supreme Court of the Philippines conducted two rounds of oral arguments on a 2015 petition filed by lawyer Jesus Nicardo Falcis III, who described himself in the pleading as “an open and self-identified homosexual.” His plea sought to declare as unconstitutional portions of the Family Code of the Philippines which “define and limit marriage as between man and woman.”

The just-concluded oral arguments on legalizing same-sex marriage mark a historic first in the Philippines, opening the legal discussion of a taboo in Asia’s bastion of Catholicism.