Turning Point In India, Triumph In Philippines For The Rights Of Women
By Walden Bello
Source: China Post
Sunday, December 30, 2012
Making the biggest headlines were the massive demonstrations in New Delhi and other cities in India provoked by the brutal gang-rape by six men of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student in a moving bus in the Indian capital. The crime, which saw the victim suffer extremely serious wounds in her genitals and intestines, proved to be the trigger for the release of popular anger that had built up over the years over the rise in violence against women.
Even as India's gender equation may be in the process of transformation, the women's movement registered a historic victory in the Philippines with the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill. The law, which makes family planning an obligatory policy for the current administration and for future ones, was passed Dec. 17 in the House of Representatives and the Senate in the teeth of ferocious opposition from the super-patriarchal Catholic Church hierarchy.
Key provisions of the new law include, among others, the provision of free or cheap contraceptives to poor couples, institutionalization of sex education for students from the sixth grade up, the establishment of maternal care facilities in state-run hospitals, and provision of reproductive health counseling and treatment for women in all hospitals, including those suffering from postabortion complications, while ensuring respect for the rights of health professionals who cannot offer these services owing to religious belief.
The passage of the RH bill was seen widely as an enormous debacle for the Catholic Church, to which some 80 percent of the population nominally belongs. For 14 years, the Church hierarchy had thrown everything, including the proverbial kitchen sink, at the campaign to have the bill enacted into law. How did the RH advocates manage to beat an institution that has been a massive force in Philippine society for nearly 500 years?