Category Archives: Human rights

Racial divide seemingly remaining steady



Though the country has advanced exponentially in the fight against discrimination against some groups of people, there is still work to be done in other areas. Thanks to recent events that have made headline news, the LGBT community has begun to open eyes to some of the struggles they face. While the journey for this group is far from over, advancements have been made in curbing the tide of negative attention they have received in recent years.

Unfortunately, the racial divide in this country has remained present, or even grown in recent months. Since the Civil Rights Act was begun in 1964, black Americans have had the same rights as Americans of other races. Those basic rights have been maintained and even increased over the years. For a time, it seemed that, at least among a majority of Americans, the separation between the races was starting to shrink. However, recent events that have made the news have brought information to light that shows that belief is not necessarily the case. In fact, the tide has seemingly shifted, in some ways, to allow for increased discrimination amongst people who are actually not black.

Protests, police shootings, and horrible events in schools over the past several months have seemed to highlight Caucasian people, including police officers, victimizing black people. These videos have streamed onto social networking websites and into the media, and have been played over and over again. Sometimes the stories are partially true, and have been edited to an extreme degree, and others they are completely correct and show hardships that should no longer be occurring. In all cases, though, they only serve to widen the gap between races that everyone thought was beginning to come closer to ending only a few years ago.

The backlash against white people, especially police officers, has become so intense that more and more people are afraid to speak out about their personal opinions for fear of being labeled “racist.” Anyone who wants to learn more about this fact can easily find a number of websites filled with information online. Regardless of where you stand on this issue, the only fact that remains clear is that it will take a great deal of work on both sides of the coin in order for the huge space separating the races in this country to truly be closed in a peaceful manner.

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Women artists, rights activists mount exhibit for women political prisoners

women artists

In commemoration of the International Day to End Violence Against Women (IDEVAW) on November 25, women artists, human rights activists and poets joined relatives of political prisoners in mounting a benefit exhibit of portraits of women political prisoners in the Philippines at the Conspiracy Bar in Quezon City.

The Kababaihan sa Sining at Bagong Sibol na Kamalayan (Kasibulan)–an organization of women artists, human rights group Karapatan, poets from Kilometer 64, and relatives of political prisoners under Hustisya, opened the exhibit Wednesday with nineteen (19) portraits of women political prisoners.

Volunteer teacher Rhea Pareja, elderly Moreta Alegre, youth activist Maricon Montajes, women’s rights advocate Rosanna Cabusao, and National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultants Wilma Austria, Ma. Concepcion Araneta-Bocala and Loida Magpatoc, were among the women political prisoners featured in the portraits.

As of September 30, 2015, there are 51 women political prisoners in the Philippines, out of the 555 political prisoners. Political prisoners are individuals illegally arrested and detained based on their political beliefs or affiliations. Fabricated criminal charges were filed against them.

The benefit exhibit, which will run until December 7, is part of the continuing efforts to raise awareness and resources for the campaign to free political prisoners in the Philippines.

The organizers said the exhibit was also opened in time for the UN-declared IDEVAW, in commemoration of the death anniversary of the Mirabal sisters in the Dominican Republic who also became women political prisoners during the military dictatorship by the Trujillo regime in the 1950’s-60’s. The Mirabal sisters – Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa – were called “Las Mariposas” or “The Butterflies,” among the members of the resistance movement in the Dominican Republic.

For references:
Vivian Nocum Limpin, Kasibulan President (0915-8107879)
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General (0917-3162831)
Nikki Gamara, daughter of political prisoner Renante Gamara (0916-1134588)

Press Release

UN CEDAW Committee Finds the Philippine Government Accountable for Grave and Systematic Violations of Women’s Rights under CEDAW

CEDAW to Review the Philippines for its Compliance of CEDAW in July 2016 (In Re Manila EO 003 Series of 2000 and EO 030 Series of 2011)

Quezon City, May 3, 2015 – “The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women released its findings on its inquiry on Manila EO 003 and E0 030 finding the Philippines accountable for grave and systematic violations of women’s rights under the CEDAW Convention,” said Atty. Clara Rita Padilla, Executive Director of EnGendeRights.

“This is historic. This is only the second inquiry conducted under Article 8 of the Optional Protocol to CEDAW and the first on sexual and reproductive health and rights. The impact of such finding will not only be in the Philippines but in other countries as well where there are similar violations of women’s rights. With the release of the findings, we hope that the Philippine government will comply with its international treaty obligations to ensure that the women and girls in Manila City and throughout the Philippines are not discriminated against in accessing sexual and reproductive health services,” added Atty. Padilla.

Atty. Padilla continued that, “The release of the summary findings is very timely because the CEDAW Committee will review the compliance or non-compliance of the Philippine government with its obligations under CEDAW in July 2016 during its periodic review. The recommendations of the CEDAW Committee in relation to the inquiry would surely be tackled during such periodic review.”

EnGendeRights and WomenLEAD, as co-convenors of the Philippine-based Task Force CEDAW Inquiry (Task Force CEDAW Inquiry),[1] together with the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights[2] and Malaysia-based International Women’s Rights Action Watch-Asia Pacific (IWRAW-AP)[3] submitted the request for inquiry to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) [4] in 2008 to investigate the impact on the health and lives of women resulting from Manila City Executive Order 003 Series of 2000 (EO 003). EO 003, issued on February 29, 2000, declared Manila City as a “pro-life city” and discouraged the use of modern contraceptives.

The joint submission and the rest of the submissions submitted until 2012 to the CEDAW Committee, six submissions altogether, were co-drafted by the Task Force CEDAW Inquiry (composed of twenty member NGOs with EnGendeRights and WomenLEAD as co-convenors), the Center for Reproductive Rights, and IWRAW-AP. The subsequent submissions documented the continuing impact of the EOs on women, the delay in the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill which was not yet passed into law at that time, the enactment of Manila EO 030 Series 2011 (EO 030),[5] among others.

CEDAW experts, Pramila Patten and Violeta Neubauer, conducted the investigation in the Philippines in November 2012.[6]

In the findings, the CEDAW Committee observed that, while the 1987 Philippine Constitution guarantees separation of the Church and the State, the Church has considerable influence on public policy where religion has been relied on as a basis for sexual and reproductive health policies, including at the level of local government units.

The CEDAW Committee found the Philippines accountable for the violations of rights of women and girls as the State party “failed to address the effects of the implementation of EO 003 and EO 030 and, between 2004 and 2010, has at times either supported or condoned the policies of the City of Manila” lasting for more than 12 years, during the successive terms of two different mayors of Manila City.

The CEDAW Committee found violations under CEDAW given the “tacit acceptance by the central Government of the policies issued by the Manila local government and its failure to take any action against the local public authorities, as of February 2004” with the national government taking “insufficient and inadequate measures to address the flaws of the Manila health system”; “the implementation of EO 003 and 030 over many years compelled women to have more children than they wanted or than their health permitted them to have” with “the impact of EO 003 compounded by the funding ban contained in EO 030”; “the failure of the State party to provide the full range of sexual and reproductive health services, commodities and information resulted in unplanned pregnancies, unsafe abortions and unnecessary and preventable maternal deaths” particularly harming disadvantaged groups of women, including poor women and adolescent girls, as well as women in abusive relationships.

The Committee stressed that the denial of access to full range of methods of contraception had severe consequences not only for the lives and health of many women, but also impacted their other rights in CEDAW such as employment and education by “limiting women’s rights to freely choose the number and spacing of their children, women and girls were effectively undermined in accessing and pursuing the same education and employment opportunities as men, and thereby driven further into… poverty.”

The CEDAW Committee recommended the following for the Philippine government:

  • make modern contraceptives including emergency contraceptives accessible;
  • remove all barriers that result in unequal access to sexual and reproductive health services including limitations pertaining to women’s marital status, age, and number of children;
  • establish health care protocols to prevent and sanction discrimination against women;
  • guarantee separation of the Church and the State to protect women’s sexual and reproductive health rights through sensitizing members of parliament and national and local government officials to eliminate all ideological barriers limiting women’s access to sexual reproductive health services, commodities and information;
  • provide access to quality post abortion care to women including by reintroducing misoprostol to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity rates and ensure that women experiencing abortion-related complications are not reported to law enforcement authorities and are not threatened with arrest;
  • amend articles 256 to 259 of the Revised Penal Code to “legalize abortion in cases of rape, incest, threats to the life and/or health of the mother, or serious malformation of the foetus and decriminalize all other cases where women undergo abortion.”

“Implementing the recommendations of the CEDAW Committee are concrete steps towards the Philippine government’s compliance with its obligations under CEDAW and towards ensuring women’s enjoyment of their rights under the Convention,” Atty. Padilla concluded.

There has only been one other inquiry conducted since the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to CEDAW in December 2000 where the CEDAW Committee issued its report on the systematic rape and murder of women in and around Ciudad Juarez in Mexico 2005.[7]***

Contact Person:

Atty. Clara Rita “Claire” A. Padilla
Executive Director
EnGendeRights, Inc.
Mobile: (+63)918-2182682
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Twitter: @Clara Rita Padilla