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A primer: Magna Carta of Women


IN celebration of March as Women’s Month, here is a Primer on Women’s Rights as laid down in the Magna Carta of Women (Republic Act 9710).

The Magna Carta of Women is a comprehensive women’s human- rights law that seeks to eliminate discrimination against women by recognizing, protecting, fulfilling and promoting the rights of Filipino women, especially those in marginalized sector.

The Magna Carta of Women defines discrimination against women as:

•             Any gender-based distinction, exclusion, or restriction which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment, or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field;

•             Any act or omission, including by law, policy, administrative measure, or practice, that directly or indirectly excludes or restricts women in the recognition and promotion of their rights and their access to and enjoyment of opportunities, benefits or privileges;

•             A measure or practice of general application that fails to provide for mechanisms to offset or address sex or gender-based disadvantages or limitations of women, as a result of which women are denied or restricted in the recognition and protection of their rights and in their access to and enjoyment of opportunities, benefits or privileges; or women, more than men are shown to have suffered the greater adverse effects of those measures or practices; and

•             Discrimination compounded by or intersecting with other grounds, status, or condition, such as ethnicity, age, poverty or religion.

All rights in the Philippine Constitution and those rights recognized under international instruments duly signed and ratified by the Philippines, in consonance with Philippine laws shall be rights of women under the Magna Carta of Women. These rights shall be enjoyed without discrimination since the law prohibits discrimination against women, whether done by public and private entities or individuals.

The Magna Carta of Women also spells out every woman’s right to:

•             Protection from all forms of violence, including those committed by the State. This includes the incremental increase in the recruitment and training of women in government services that cater to women victims of gender-related offenses. It also ensures mandatory training on human rights and gender sensitivity to all government personnel involved in the protection and defense of women against gender-based violence, and mandates local government units to establish a Violence Against Women Desk in every barangay to address violence against women cases;

•             Protection and security in times of disaster, calamities and other crisis situations, especially in all phases of relief, recovery, rehabilitation and construction efforts, including protection from sexual exploitation, and other sexual and gender-based violence;

•             Participation and representation, including undertaking temporary special measures and affirmative actions to accelerate and ensure women’s equitable participation and representation in the third level civil service, development councils and planning bodies, as well as political parties and international bodies, including the private sector;

•             Equal treatment before the law, including the State’s review and when necessary amendment or repeal of existing laws that are discriminatory to women;

•             Equal access and elimination of discrimination against women in education, scholarships and training. This includes revising educational materials and curricula to remove gender stereotypes and images, and outlawing the expulsion, non-readmission, prohibiting enrollment and other related discrimination against women students and faculty due to pregnancy outside of marriage;

•             Equal participation in sports. This includes measures to ensure that gender-based discrimination in competitive and noncompetitive sports is removed so that women and girls can benefit from sports development;

•             Nondiscrimination in employment in the field of military, police and other similar services. This includes according the same promotional privileges and opportunities as their men counterpart, including pay increases, additional benefits, and awards, based on competency and quality of performance. The dignity of women in the military, police and other similar services shall always be respected, they shall be accorded with the same capacity as men to act in and enter into contracts, including marriage, as well as be entitled to leave benefits for women, such as maternity leave, as provided for in existing laws;

•             Nondiscriminatory and non-derogatory portrayal of women in media and film to raise the consciousness of the general public in recognizing the dignity of women and the role and contribution of women, in family, community, and the society through the strategic use of mass media;

•             Comprehensive health services and health information and education covering all stages of a woman’s life cycle, and which addresses the major causes of women’s mortality and morbidity, including access to, among others, maternal care, responsible, ethical, legal, safe and effective methods of family planning, and encouraging healthy lifestyle activities to prevent diseases;

•             Leave benefits of two months with full pay based on gross monthly compensation, for women employees who undergo surgery caused by gynecological disorders, provided that they have rendered continuous aggregate employment service of at least six months for the last 12 months;

•             Equal rights in all matters relating to marriage and family relations. The State shall ensure the same rights of women and men to: enter into and leave marriages, freely choose a spouse, decide on the number and spacing of their children, enjoy personal rights including the choice of a profession, own, acquire, and administer their property, and acquire, change, or retain their nationality. It also states that the betrothal and marriage of a child shall have no legal effect. The Magna Carta of Women also guarantees the civil, political and economic rights of women in the marginalized sectors, particularly their right to:

•             Food security and resources for food production, including equal rights in the titling of the land and issuance of stewardship contracts and patents;

•             Localized, accessible, secure and affordable housing;

•             Employment, livelihood, credit, capital and technology;

•             Skills training, scholarships, especially in research and development aimed toward women-friendly farm technology;

•             Representation and participation in policy-making or decision-making bodies in the regional, national and international levels;

•             Access to information regarding policies on women, including programs, projects and funding outlays that affect them;

•             Social protection;

n             Recognition and preservation of cultural identity and integrity provided that these cultural systems and practices are not discriminatory to women;

•             Inclusion in discussions on peace and development;

•             Services and interventions for women in especially difficult circumstances or WEDC;

•             Protection of girl-children against all forms of discrimination in education, health and nutrition, and skills development; and

•             Protection of women senior citizens.

The Magna Carta of Women defines the marginalized sectors as those who belong to the basic, disadvantaged, or vulnerable groups who are mostly living in poverty and have little or no access to land and other resources, basic social and economic services such as health care, education, water and sanitation, employment and livelihood opportunities, housing security, physical infrastructure and the justice system. These include, but are not limited to women in the following sectors or groups: Small farmers and rural workers, fisherfolk, urban poor, workers in the formal economy, workers in the informal economy, migrant workers, indigenous peoples, Moro, children, senior citizens, persons with disabilities and solo parents.

The State, the private sector, society in general, and all individuals shall contribute to the recognition, respect and promotion of the rights of women defined and guaranteed in the Magna Carta of Women. The Philippine government shall be the primary duty-bearer in implementing the said law. This means that all government offices, including local government units and government-owned and -controlled corporations shall be responsible to implement the provisions of Magna Carta of Women that falls within their mandate, particularly those that  guarantee rights of women that require specific action from the State. As the primary duty-bearer, the government is tasked to:

•             refrain from discriminating against women and violating their rights;

•             protect women against discrimination and from violation of their rights by private corporations, entities and individuals;

•             promote and fulfill the rights of women in all spheres, including their rights to substantive equality and nondiscrimination.

The government shall fulfill these duties through the development and implementation of laws, policies, regulatory instruments, administrative guidelines, and other appropriate measures, including temporary special measures. It shall also establish mechanisms to promote the coherent and integrated implementation of the Magna Carta of Women, and other related laws and policies to effectively stop discrimination against Filipino women.

(Reference web site: Philippine Commission on Women).

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