EDITORIAL - Step it up for gender equality

The Philippine Star

Of the five candidates for the presidency, two are women. The fate of one of them now waits for a ruling from the Supreme Court, which is headed by a woman. At the Philippine Military Academy and Philippine National Police Academy, women are among the top 10 in the graduating classes.

Filipino women have reason to celebrate as the nation joins the world today in marking International Women’s Day. Gender parity is one area where the country ranks among the world’s best.

Yet serious problems remain, especially for women from impoverished communities.

At least 37 laws, executive and administrative orders have been passed or issued to promote the welfare of women, protect them from violence and discrimination and give them the same privileges as men. Enforcement, however, remains weak, with millions of women unaware of their rights under the law. The country has one of the toughest laws against domestic violence, but many women in marginalized communities are unaware of its provisions.

The Center for Women’s Resources has also reported that every 53 minutes in this country, a woman or child is raped, with seven in 10 victims children. The CWR added that every 16 minutes, a woman is battered. Recorded rape cases are up by 92 percent from 5,132 in 2010 to 9,875 in 2014, during which violations of the law against domestic violence also surged by 200 percent, the group reported. The CWR attributes the increase to the belief that violators can get away with domestic violence and other forms of abuse.

On the eve of Women’s Day, the Commission on Population also reported that despite the passage of the Reproductive Health Law, which has been upheld by the Supreme Court, many Filipino women still lack access to family planning and related health care services. PopCom officials noted that the cut in this year’s funding for family planning services would aggravate a problem that has kept the nation’s maternal mortality rate high.

The United Nations aims to achieve Sustainable Development Goals for gender equality by 2030 and is urging governments to accelerate the agenda. Many glass ceilings have been shattered in the past decades, but too many women worldwide continue to suffer from various forms of abuse, exploitation and discrimination. Women’s Day should reinforce global commitment to step up the campaign.

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