October 11, 2017
October 11 marks the International Day of the Girl Child, a recognition of the rights of girls all over the world and a reminder of the challenges hindering the fulfillment of these rights.
The Philippines is considered as one of the best countries in the world to be a girl, as evidenced by its consistent high ranking in various global indices that look at women empowerment and closing gender gaps. The country has also been hailed for landmark legislation that protect and promote women’s rights, such as the Women in Development and Nation-Building Act, the Anti-Violence against Women and Their Children Act, the Magna Carta of Women, and the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law, among others.
Unfortunately, despite its sterling performance at the global level and its dynamic policy environment, statistics show that there are still a lot of gaps in the country’s fulfillment of women’s and girls’ rights—adolescent reproductive health has never been prioritized in the implementation of the RPRH Law and this has resulted in a lack of age- and development-appropriate sexuality and reproductive health education and an alarming rise in teenage pregnancy.
Furthermore, violence against women and girls is still a problem that has yet to be addressed. One form of violence against women and girls that is present but is rarely talked about in the country is child, early, and forced marriages (CEFM). Unfortunately, social norms, accepted cultural and traditional practices, and even written and customary laws contribute to the prevalence of CEFM. One of the laws that have been cited as having provisions that are discriminatory is Presidential Decree No. 1083 or the Code of Muslim Personal Laws, which places the age of marriage for girls at 15, or in some cases, at puberty. Because CEFM has not been discussed extensively, its magnitude and negative repercussions remain largely unknown.
We believe that for any country, the empowerment of women and girls is necessary in achieving sustainable development and that to empower women and girls, barriers to the fulfillment of their rights must be eliminated. We urge legislators and policy-makers to ensure that laws protecting women and girls are properly and fully implemented, to uphold legislative actions that prioritize sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), and to amend laws that have discriminatory provisions against women and girls.
May this day serve as a fervent reminder to all stakeholders that there is still much to be done in closing gender gaps and that we must all work hand in hand toward this.
Note: PLCPD is part of the Creating Spaces to Take Action on Violence against Women and Girls (Creating Spaces) project, together with Oxfam, Al-Mujadilah Development Foundation, and United Youth of the Philippines – Women and with the support of Global Affairs Canada. Creating Spaces aims to reduce violence against women and girls and reduce the prevalence of CEFM. “Too young, too soon: a multistakeholder issue orientation on CEFM” was organized in partnership with UNFPA in celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child.