For decades the country has proudly produced legal bases on its treatment of women in both private and public spheres. From the Family Code, Women in Nation-building Act, Magna Carta of Women to Reproductive Health, we could say it is indeed a fertile setting, not only in land and other natural resources, but also in social landscape.
Obviously, regulating behaviour and actions towards women are neatly packaged in the Magna Carta of Women. This law attempts to be a catch all as it is the Philippine response to the global call to change mindset aimed at ending discrimination as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (UN CEDAW). Mechanisms supporting attempts to elevate the status of Filipino women and girls are outlined in it.
While the Magna Carta seems to embody all which are expected of a society to protect and promote women human rights and welfare, there is another legislation that preceded its enactment, the Women In Nation-Building Act. This enjoins all government agencies and units to inform, educate and train all personnel on gender equity and women empowerment including provision of an array of support services to women and girls through the five percent gender fund allocation in each agency’s annual budget.
Additionally, the reorganization and reprogramming of the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW) into the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) entails prioritization of all government officials in its services that may improve their orientation on women’s bodies and soul.
Presumably, there is a regular monitoring on the level of appreciation of government entities, individual officials and rank and file on gender mainstreaming, however, latest events unfolding before us pose more questions as to how this annual budget is being utilized.
That specific activity alarms not only women activists, but the general public as well on the behavior of elected officials. And this refers to the Liberal Party (BS Aquino administration’s political party) local chapter oath-taking celebration few days ago that brought female dancers performing morally offensive sexual dances, with the officials themselves taking part.
Certainly, it is not the women who are to be accused, but the male hosts and organizers of the event that put them in such a degrading situation, portraying them as sex objects.
Besides, regulating gender asymmetry through the Magna Carta of Women and relevant laws, public officials are not only enjoined, but mandated to conform to the standards prohibiting obscene acts.
Likewise, obtaining conditions such as lack of jobs and limited economic opportunities, women fall preys to the feudal-patriarchal system fortified by the neoliberal schemes. The combined policies of liberalization, privatization and deregulation result to social indicators, which show that real chances for growth and development of people are little.
Without dwelling much on how poverty incidences are defined now to gloss over the realities, many young women are exposed to further victimization when they are peddled as commodities. The words of the government official bluntly speak of such a treatment, “they are my gifts”, the women and the show as an offer to the celebrators (40th year of public service and those taking oath as party members).
Consequently, women remain victim-survivors in a society that have been in a quagmire of poverty. Women dancers consider the task as paid. They insist that instructions on what to wear came from the hosts. They do not see it as a problem. There lies the contradiction.
Meanwhile, adding injury to the whole exercise of discrimination is the reportage being done. Media interviews dwell on the twerk-dancers than on the culpability of the men holding key position in governance. The victimization becomes glaringly multiple.
Scrutinizing the implementing guidelines of the Magna Carta, one may wonder how many groups in the country conduct gender mainstreaming projects, yet, violations rise in forms and number. Should we say the amplification of the existing laws on women and girls reach an epic fail.
Why is this so? In practice, some government forces continue to make gender mainstreaming a technical action than a substantive agenda supported by dynamic efforts at looking into mechanisms where women vulnerability is or at risk. Gender budget may just be an additional fund for anything under the sun.
After all, our laws may be at par with the international legal instruments on women human rights but the prevailing system perpetuates subservience. Power relations remain a huge factor as gender and class trajectories are. Until the present economic and political systems are reversed, extremely difficult circumstances for women and girls increase. No amount of gender asymmetry regulations could balance the forces where piecemeal accompanies response to social inequalities.