Press Release
August 11, 2010

Pia: Laws that discriminate against women to be reviewed by Senate

A man who rapes a woman can offer to marry her to be absolved of the offense. The husband's decision prevails over his wife in case of disagreement in the administration of conjugal property, among other marital conflicts. A provision in the Labor Code actually forbids all women, regardless of age, from working between 10:00 pm to 6:00 am.

These are only three of several "anti-women" laws that are slated to be taken up by the Senate Committee on Youth, Women and Family Relations on Thursday, August 12, at the Philippine Senate.

Chaired by Senator Pia S. Cayetano, the committee will discuss Senate Resolution No. 64, authored by Cayetano herself, which seeks to review, in aid of legislation, existing laws considered discriminatory to women, including their possible amendment or repeal.

She pointed out that the review is mandated under Section 12 of the Magna Carta of Women (RA 9710), which Cayetano principally authored, and which was enacted last year.

"Several laws containing distinctions, exclusions and restrictions against women persist despite great advancements in the recognition of women's rights in recent decades. These laws are trapped in a time warp, back in an archaic age when chauvinist thinking dominated society and women were considered inferior to men," she explained.

"We need to strip our existing laws of all discriminatory provisions against women to ensure that their Constitutionally-guaranteed rights are upheld and to allow them to actively participate and contribute to our national development."

Among the laws cited in SRN 64 are: Articles 96, 124, 211, and 225 of the Family Code, which uphold the husband's decision on conjugal disagreements over property, parental authority and legal guardianship; Article 130 of the Labor Code which prohibits nightwork for women; Articles 266 (c), 333 and 334 of the Revised Penal Code which cover marital rape and the grounds for adultery and concubinage, respectively; and Articles 16, 122, 162 and 180 of the Code of Muslim Personal Laws which govern early and arranged marriage, polygamy and unequal inheritance, respectively, for Muslims.

Citing a classic example, Cayetano said the grounds under the Revised Penal Code (RPC) are more difficult when convicting a married man for concubinage compared to a married woman for adultery.

She explained that it is enough for the married woman to be caught in the act of having sexual intercourse with another man to be convicted for adultery (Sec. 333 of RPC). Meanwhile, a married man can only be convicted for concubinage if it is proven that he is: (1) keeping a mistress in a conjugal dwelling; or (2) having sex with another woman under scandalous circumstances; or (3) cohabiting with her in any other place (Sec. 334 of RPC).

Citing another example, she said: "Under the Anti-Rape Law, a rapist can avoid conviction by offering to marry his victim. Marriage has the effect of pardoning him as if the crime of rape did not happen at all."

"On the other hand, if we are to follow an antiquated law that prohibits nightwork for women, then all female employees working on night shift, such as call center agents, are unwittingly violating the law."

"This provision was framed by lawmakers several decades ago, purportedly to 'protect' women and to discourage certain 'professions' then associated with women working at night such as prostitution," she explained. "But times have changed and so laws like these must also be revised, accordingly."

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