After 27 Years of CEDAW: State of Philippine Women

Twenty-seven years after the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the condition of the Filipina seems to have worsened. The proof of the pudding are the statistics from the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW).

According to the factsheet released by the NCRFW this month, women comprise 49.72 percent of the almost 90-million Filipino population. It means there are around 45 million females living in the Philippines today.

Relatively, 15.4 percent of the households in the Philippines are being run by women and the remaining percentage are run by males.

Violence against women and their children (VAWC)

On the issue of violence against women (VAW), record shows the sudden decline of reported cases of VAW by the Philippine National Police (PNP).

From 1999 to 2006, the number of VAW cases being reported to the PNP Women’s Desk seems to have declined by 2.5 percent annually. The peak of VAW cases reported to the PNP was in 2001, when the number of VAW cases reached up to 9,132.

Among the VAW cases reported to the authorities, the most prevalent is physical injuries or wife-battering. Based on PNP records, 58.5 percent of the reported cases, nationwide, involve physical abuse.

It is said that from 5,668 cases of wife-battering in 2001, the number drastically decreased to 1,498 cases in 2006, while in the first three months of 2007, there are 1,498 cases of wife battering reported to the police.

Second on the rank of VAW reported cases is rape, which makes up 14.7 percent of the total number of VAW cases reported from 1999 to 2006.

Based on PNP records, there seems to be a downward trend on reported rape cases – from 946 in 1999 to 659 in 2006 at a rate of 5 percent per year. From January to October 2007, 639 cases of rape were reported to the police.

Acts of lasciviousness ranked third at an average of 615 reported cases per year, accounting for 9.4 percent of all reported VAW cases from 1999 to 2006. The comparative figures also indicate a downward trend of the reported cases at 5.9 percent decrease rate per annum.

From January to October 2007, there were 1,443 reported cases of Violation of R.A. 9262, otherwise known as the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act of 2004, based on data from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) as cited by the NCRFW.

There is also a downward trend in the number of women in especially difficult circumstances (WEDC) served; from 7,763 cases in 1999 to 5,378 cases in 2006. The rate of decrease is estimated at 5.1 percent per annum, according to the DSWD.

In 2006, women who were physically abused and maltreated topped the list (26.7 percent) of WEDC cases who received assistance from DSWD such as legal services, counseling, security and protection, medical, etc. But in that same data that the DSWD provided the NCRFW, there was no indication of what happened after the Anti-VAWC cases were filed.

Despite the decline in the number of cases, the NCRFW admitted that there are probably more cases of violations against the dignity and rights of women, which remain unreported.

On labor participation and feminization of migration

Though there was a slight increase in women’s participation in the labor sector, their participation remains minimal.

According to the NCRFW, Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR) of women in the country is only 48.9 percent, against 79.1 percent among men, as of 2006.

Sadly, not all women who are working are being paid, according to the NCRFW. Worse, there is an increasing trend of unpaid workers over the past years, added the NCRFW.

In October 2006, unpaid family workers in own family business or enterprise increased to 4.3 million in the agriculture, industry and services sectors from 3.7 million in 2003. On the total figures (of unpaid workers), 55.8 percent of these, or equivalent of 2.4 million, are women.

Because of the lack of opportunities in the country, women, mostly those who are at fertility age, are forced to migrate and become overseas contract workers.

Of the 1.52 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) that left the country in 2006, 50.4 percent of those were women. This translates to 764,000 women “shipped” overseas on that year. This is much higher than the 2005 figure of 660,000 females who went abroad.

On that same data, female workers who go abroad are much younger than males. Around 43.5 percent of female OFWs were aged 15-29 years old.

However, notwithstanding their number and their skills, female OFWs’ total remittance remains lower than that of their male counterparts. In 2005, of the total P85.4 billion estimated OFW remittances, around 35.9 percent (equivalent of P30.7 billion) came from female OFWs. In 2004, 32.9 percent (P26.1 billion) of the P79.3-billion OFW remittances were from female OFWs.

On the issue of women’s health

According to the statistics, for every 100,000 live births in the Philippines, 162 women die during pregnancy and childbirth or shortly after childbirth. The sad fact is that the causes of these deaths are “preventable,” according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

According to the 1998 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), there is a slight decrease in maternal mortality ratio, compared to the data from 1993. From 209 maternal deaths in 1993, the Department of Health (DoH) recorded only 172 in 1998.

On one hand, in 2006, six out of every 10 women 15-49 years old were at risk of conceiving a child with an elevated risk of mortality. These women were considered at risk either because they were impregnated at an early age (less than 18 years) or too late (age 35 or older) or had given birth more than thrice at an unacceptably short birth interval (less than 24 months between every birth), according to the NCRFW data. The estimate was higher than the 2005 estimate of 50.6 percent (around five out of 10 women), added the NCRFW.

Some family planning advocates point to the lack of national legislation on the protection of reproductive health rights in the Philippines as a factor behind such risks, especially in early child-bearing and short birth intervals.

On the other hand, there is a record high in usage of “modern” contraceptive methods (taking oral contraceptive pills and injectibles, use of condoms and intra-uterine devices). In 2006, there were an estimated 36 out of every 100 women using modern contraceptives, of which 16.6 percent use pills as contraception. Records however show that there was a 0.5 percent decrease in pills usage in that year, compared to 2005 data (17.1 percent in 2005).

Based on the 2003 National Nutrition Survey (NNS), there is a prevalence of five nutrition-related and lifestyle risk factors among women, namely: (1) dyslipidemia; (2) diabetes; (3) hypertension; (4) smoking; and (5) obesity. Based on that survey, hypertension cases are relatively high and smoking among women, though much lower compared to the number of men who smoke, recorded 12.1 percent.

On the same note, 26.6 percent of pregnant women at 11.7 percent lactating women are underweight. Anemia remains a health problem among pregnant and lactating women at the rate of 43.9 percent and 42.2 percent respectively.

The numbers of people living with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), in both genders, are also increasing. From January to December 2007, the DoH recorded 342 HIV Ab Seropostive cases, 314 of which are asymptomatic and 28 of which developed into AIDS. Eight of the victims have already died from complications due to AIDS

In 2007, 1,023 cases or 33.54 percent of the total number of HIV-positive cases registered at the DoH AIDS Registry, were females, belonging to the 25-39 age group, while another 20.23 percent were in the 19-24 age group.

Out of the 3,061 HIV Seropositive cases, 1,061 were OFWs, of which 275 or three out of 10 were women. There were seven in every 10 women OFWs with HIV/AIDS were aged 25-39 years, according to DOH.

What other health and migrants’ group fear is that more cases remain undiscovered or unreported.

Education and politics

While there are relatively high rates of literacy among women, eight out of every 100 women (equivalent of two million) could neither read nor write, according to the 2003 Functional Literacy, Education, and Mass Media Survey (FLEMMS 03).

Twenty-six million women are basically literate (those who can read and write), but only 25 million are functionally literate (those who are able to solve basic math problems and can comprehend what they read), FLEMSS 03 shows.

Women also seem to be more interested in studying than men.

Data from the Department of Education (DepEd) shows that at the elementary level, the female Net Enrollment Ration (NER) was computed at 76.90 percent, compared to that of boys who recorded only 75.28 percent. Using the Gender Parity Index (GPI), the ratio is 1.02, meaning that for every 100 boys enrolled, there are 102 female students.

At the secondary level, 49.58 percent (50 in every 100 girls) of girls ages 15 and above, were enrolled as of SY 06-07. The GPI ratio is 1.20 (120 girls for every 100 boys).

At the college level, 54.48 percent of the total 2.48 million enrollees were girls. 27.44 percent of enrolled in courses related to medical and allied disciplines, while 24.53 percent enrolled in Business Administration and related disciplines.

Out of every 10 women, six choose to enroll at private universities and colleges.

Girls were more likely to get diplomas than the boys. The completion rate of females at the elementary level was 67.35 percent, while in high school, it was 61.87 percent. In the year 2005-2006, 56.61 percent of the total 263,634 graduates were females.

Among licensed professionals, females seem to have the edge. The Profession Regulation Commission (PRC) recorded 63,547 licensed female professionals, against males (40,922). Of the 63,547 women professionals, 43.27 percent were nurses and 43.27 percent were teachers (elementary and high school).

On the “political” side, the participation of women in the country’s political processes remains low. This is notwithstanding the fact that females comprised the bigger voting bloc in terms of gender.

During the 1998 and 2001 elections, women candidates for national and local posts comprised a meager 20 percent of the total number of candidates.

Despite the high success rate in elections, Filipino women still have dismal participation as decision-makers in the public sector. In 2004, the average proportion of women in key elected posts, according to the NCRFW, was no more than 17 percent.

In fact, adds the NCRFW, the dismal performance of women in the 2004 elections registered a sharp drop after an increasing trend, beginning 1995.

Among the 2007 senatoriables, only four women out of 37 hopefuls (10.8 percent), vied for seats in the Senate. Only one of them won. Women participation in the senatorial elections in 2004 was higher at 20.8 percent (10 out of 48 senatorial candidates), with three women elected.  A Special Report contributed to Bulatlat; Vol. VIII, No. 6, March 9-15, 2008.

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