Press Release
March 21, 2023

Pia: On discriminatory laws against women
Privilege speech of Senator Pia S. Cayetano on Women's Month

Thank you, Mr President.

Dear colleagues, it is Women's Month, and we celebrate as often anywhere and everywhere that we can.

I take this opportunity to discuss a concern that I have raised in the previous congresses and these are the need to review discriminatory laws against women.

I chaired the Committee on Women, Youth, and Family Relations for six years and during this period, I've had the opportunity to review these laws. The Constitution is very clear that "the State recognizes the role of women in nation-building, and shall ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men."

We also have our Magna Carta of Women, and the Philippines also ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

These are the reasons, your honor, why the Philippines often ranks as one of the most gender equal countries globally, based on the annual Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum.

So we do what we can. But there is still room for improvement. We have been regressing in gender parity in the last few years. As legislators, it is our primary job to ensure that we pass laws that advance the status and protect the rights of women.

However, while we do this, we must also acknowledge that laws with provisions that are discriminatory against women are relics from the past, and must be amended or repealed.

At the beginning of the 19th Congress, I filed Resolution No. 25, which directed the Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality and other appropriate committees to conduct a review, in aid of legislation, on these precise laws with such provisions that are discriminatory.

The outcome from previous congresses are as follows:

  • In the 14th Congress, that is during 2007-2010, and the 15th Congress, 2010-2013, we did have these committee hearings that I mentioned, and again, in the 16th Congress, 2013-2016.

The review of the previous congresses resulted in the following:

  •  Repeal of Article 351 of the Revised Penal Code, which used to penalize Premature Marriages

  •  There is also the amendment of the Anti-Mail Order Bride Act (Republic Act No. 6955)

We still have, your honors, existing laws, which are discriminatory or contain distinctions, exclusions, or restrictions against women. These are, [under the Family Code]:

  •  Article 14 - Parental Consent

  •  Article 96 - Joint Administration of Community Property

  •  Article 124 - Joint Administration of Conjugal Property

  •  Article 211 - Joint Parental Authority

  •  Article 225 - Joint Legal Guardianship over the Property of the Unemancipated Common Child

In these provisions, it is the man, it is the husband who is given these responsibilities. Why? Why? No other reason other than he is the husband, and he is the man. In many cases, there are families where the woman, in many families actually, is more involved in these matters, yet it is the man who is given these decision-making roles. So these are things that we really need to review, your honors.

And the Revised Penal Code:

  • Article 333 - Adultery

  •  Article 334 - Concubinage

  •  Article 247 - Death or Physical Injuries under Exceptional Circumstances

I understand no less than our Majority Floor Leader filed a bill in his first term as member of the House... many years ago, wherein the law seeks to equalize the penalty for marital infidelity.

There are also provisions on the Code of Muslim Personal Laws, your honors.

So to conclude, as Chairman of the Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Innovation, & Futures Thinking, this representation is committed to building a more sustainable future for women and their children.

And as I always say, the goal is not to give preference to women. The goal is to create gender partnership. We give preference to women like other sectors that have been traditionally given less opportunities. That is the reason why we create opportunities for them, to rise above the discriminatory practices that they have experienced in life.

But the ultimate goal, your honors, is gender equality for all. So with that, your honors, I end my speech knowing that I am in good company. Our male colleagues here have always shown support. And at the proper time, I believe the Chair of our Committee on Women will be able to hear this. We've had discussions in the past, and I think we will have the support of our colleagues on this.

Thank you and Happy Women's Month to all of us.

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