The Philippines has made significant strides in improving the lives of women. Yet, reality shows they remain vulnerable and oppressed.
Mary Jane Veloso was born into a poor family and married at 17. The marriage failed, and so she went to the United Arab Emirates to earn for her children. After an attempted rape on her in Dubai, a syndicate tricked her into smuggling 2.6kg of heroin into Indonesia and in April 2015, she got a last minute reprieve from the death row.
Jakatia Pawa is unlucky. Kuwaiti government executed her for allegedly killing her employer’s daughter. This is the painful story of many Filipino women who risk their lives abroad to improve their economic condition. The remittances they send back to the country keep the economy afloat.
The Philippines seems like a paradise for women. World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Gender Gap report has the Philippines ranked #7 overall which is the highest ranking among ASEAN peers and the 1st in Asia.
An ADB report shows the country has the highest percentage of firms with female participation in ownership. In politics, the Philippines have the highest representation of women in East Asia. The country had two female presidents in the last 50 years.
Also, Philippine women do not suffer from a significant gender-wage gap. The table below shows that women have the slight edge across all industries.
Digging deeper into the issue, reality shows a different situation. Philippine women remain vulnerable, and their basic rights are often violated. Millions of Filipinos are in extreme poverty, and the country’s Gini coefficient remains high. Prostitution is widespread, and according to UNICEF, the country is the number one source of child pornography and “epicentre of the live-stream abuse trade.” Women peddle their children to make ends meet.
Existing legislation like the Republic Act 1970 and the Magna Carta for Women mitigates discrimination against women. But these laws are inadequate. Some laws are unfair to women. According to the Family Code Articles 96 and 124, the husband’s decision is final when disagreements arise from conjugal properties.
Most Filipino women work as domestic helpers abroad in search for better pay. A Hong Kong report covering 1000 domestic helpers (51% of them are from the Philippines) revealed that domestic workers work for an average of 71.4 hours a week compared to the city average of 40 to 50 hours a week. The lobby group Hong Kong Helpers Campaign, noted that they struggle with debt and were prone to verbal abuse and sexual attacks.