EDITORIAL - Political participation

The Philippine Star

The country has had two women presidents, and in this election season, two women are seeking the nation’s top post while another is running for vice president. All over the country, women are also vying for many other elective positions.

Still, gender representation in politics remains heavily skewed in favor of men. In the current Congress, women occupy only 27 percent of seats in the House of Representatives. Six of the 24 senators are women, but the top four officials of the chamber are men.

In a report, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism cited a statement dated April 30 last year by the Philippine Commission on Women, which noted that women currently comprise 22.5 percent of provincial governors, 18.5 percent of vice governors and 20.86 percent of mayors. In the 2013 midterm elections, the PCIJ reported, only 18 percent or 7.9 percent of the 44,448 candidates were women.

The Philippines ranks among the top 10 countries in terms of gender equity. Filipino women won the right to vote and seek elective office in 1937 – 30 years after their male compatriots began exercising the right of suffrage, but ahead of women in France, Italy and Switzerland.

Probably because suffrage was a hard-won right, Filipino women exercised it with enthusiasm. In the 2004 general elections, Filipino women voters outnumbered the men for the first time. For the upcoming elections, there are 28,052,138 registered female voters against 26,311,706 males.

That strong voice in politics has surely contributed to several landmark pieces of legislation to promote women’s welfare, protecting what used to be called the weaker sex from various forms of discrimination, harassment, abuse and violence. However, implementation of the laws, including those promoting the right to reproductive health and protecting women and children from domestic violence, remains weak.

Enhancing women’s participation in politics can improve the implementation of the laws. This is a worthy objective as the nation celebrates Women’s Month.

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