News From The Tropics: Is There Feminism In The Philippines?

I’m a Filipina feminist. I have reason to believe, Google-proven reasons to be exact, that this is not a common statement. Feminism is not as strong a movement in the Philippines as in the United States. Young ladies are more likely to follow the works of Kris Aquino, celebrity sister of the current president, than the works of Ninotchka Rosca, feminist and human rights activist.

There are women’s organizations here that fight for rights, combat domestic violence, and push to abolish sex trafficking, but despite these pleas and cries, we are still dismissed by the government.

A legislation was written, re-written, amended, and consistently shot down for over 12 years now. This is the Reproductive Health Bill, a simple policy that protects the basic right of every human to a quality life by gaining access to affordable and widely-available reproductive healthcare.

Unfortunately, we have senators who insist on making it complicated. They say the bill is redundant, therefore unnecessary. As to why they think it’s unnecessary to at least help prevent 11 women from dying each day due to childbirth complications, I have no idea.

Even worse are the various anti-choice church groups who impose their morals on everyone by perpetuating damaging information on modern birth control methods. Strongly opposed to abortion, these people are afraid that the passing of the bill would be a gateway to sin. Try as we might to ignore religion, some of our senators are advocates. It’s important to note that this bill does not aim to legalize abortion, because people who believe in the bill believe in the power of education and letting people make informed decisions. We believe that with a sound provision on reproductive rights, there may not even be a need for abortion.

Birth control and contraceptives are available, but not accessible. For the underprivileged 33% living on minimum wage, sometimes on nothing, this is not even an option. People who have no homes have the most number of children. Women, as we know, are more likely to be on the receiving end of these hard blows.

I am a Filipina feminist and this is just one of my many problems. I think some of our politicians are simply allergic to progress. In a time when we should be talking about our rights and working to alleviate poverty, we are still adamant on channeling all our time and resources to a former, already fallen leader. I’m tired of being casually ignored by my government. Know that even if I didn’t vote for you, you are still working for me. I don’t want to see this bill, this one glimmer of feminist hope, be shelved for another year.

One can argue that women in the Philippines are not as oppressed if compared with other countries. True. More women are working, are being paid equally, and are welcome in industries. We even had two women presidents. This sustains the illusion that to be a woman in this country is to actually be powerful. We have money! We provide for ourselves! Sure, if you were lucky enough to have been sent to college by your parents. A lot of people believe that just because we have representation in various industries, even in government, women’s issues do not exist anymore because we’ve arrived. Sadly, sometimes even women themselves forget about those who are simply unable. It’s not equal rights if there are people left behind.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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