Women's Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation

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Summary of the inquiry concerning the Philippines under article 8 of the Optional Protocol to CEDAW

A Task Force  placed a request for an inquiry concerning the Republic of Philippines under Article 8 of the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), on the Manila EO #3, which effectively banned modern contraceptives and services in the city of Manila. After investigating the matter, the CEDAW Committee published its decision, which states that the Government of the Philippines has violated women's human rights on many counts. This has been hailed as a very important victory for reproductive health in the Philippines and global Human Rights jurisprudence on the matter.

Please download the pdf to read the whole report.

IV. Recommendations

49. In accordance with its jurisprudence and its General Recommendation No. 24, the Committee recalls that the practical realization of substantive equality requires accommodating the specific, distinct health needs and interests of women including those relating to their fertility and entails respecting, protecting, and fulfilling26 women’s reproductive rights, by providing them with universal access to a full range of contraceptives and related information, as well as counselling, and services.

See in particular para. 37 of General Recommendation No. 24 (1999) on women and health: "The duty of States parties to ensure, on a basis of equality between men and women, access to health care services, information and education implies an obligation to respect, protect and fulfil women's rights to health care” and that “States parties have the responsibility to ensure that legislation and executive action and policy comply with these three obligations”.

50. In light of the findings of the present report and in line with relevant recommendations addressed to the State party by other United Nations bodies, the Committee refers to its previous concluding observations and its General Recommendations Nos. 21, 24 and 28, and makes the following recommendations to the State party.

a)       Institutional and legal framework

51. The Committee calls on the State party to:

i. Fully enforce the Magna Carta of Women and its Implementing Rules and Regulations which guarantee, inter alia, women’s access to effective methods of family planning.

ii. Upon the disposal of the constitutional challenges before the Supreme Court and if declared constitutional, ensure the immediate implementation of the Reproductive Health Act and its Implementing Rules and Regulations, including provisions that guarantee universal access to the full range of reproductive health services and information for women, especially for economically disadvantaged women; ensure that the decentralization of health services and autonomy of local government units do not constitute barriers to the implementation of the new legal framework and establish mechanisms at all levels of government to ensure its strict enforcement throughout the territory of the State party.

iii. Complete, without delay and within a fixed timeframe, the review of remaining discriminatory laws and/or regulations in the field of reproductive health, as required by the Magna Carta, and modify or repeal such provisions where necessary.

iv. Ensure that Executive Orders 003 and 030 are officially revoked, as a matter of urgency, and that health care providers, as well as the general public, in particular women, are timely and duly informed of such revocation.

v. Amend articles 256 to 259 of its Criminal Code in order 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 CEDAW/C/OP.8/PHL/1 women undergo abortion, as well as adopt necessary procedural rules to guarantee effective access to legal abortion.

vi. Reinforce the existing national machinery, i.e. the Philippine Commission on Women, by strengthening its mandate, authority and visibility, as well as its human, financial and technical resources, to monitor compliance by local governments with international standards and national laws concerning the provision of reproductive health services; consider decentralising its activity by establishing regional offices; and enhance its coordination with the Department of Health, the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines in the area of reproductive health.

vii. In line with its duty under the provisions of the Magna Carta on the promotion and protection of women’s rights, consider broadening the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights to allow it to receive complaints and to provide remedies in cases of violations of, in particular, women’s reproductive rights; provide the Commission with adequate financial, human and technical resources to ensure that it can effectively discharge its current and additional functions; and take all necessary measures to ensure its full financial autonomy.

viii. In light of the decentralization of health services to local government units, establish effective monitoring and oversight mechanisms, as provided for in the Local Government Code, to ensure (1) that reproductive health related legislation, strategies and policies adopted and implemented by local government units strictly comply with the State party’s obligations under the Convention, that they are based on scientific evidence and do not discriminate against women in practice, (2) the availability, accessibility and affordability of reproductive health services and commodities at all levels of government, throughout the territory of the State party.

ix. Strengthen existing coordination and reporting mechanisms between the Department of Health, its regional health centers and the health departments of local government units to ensure the implementation of national strategies and policies relating to sexual and reproductive health.

x. Ensure that local government units put in place effective legal remedies for women seeking redress for violations of their right of access to sexual and reproductive health services; ensure that the courts adjudicate on cases involving women’s sexual and reproductive health rights without undue delay; and remove the barriers that women are facing in accessing justice.

xi. Ensure that the Convention, the Committee’s General Recommendations, the Optional Protocol and the views of the Committee under the Optional Protocol be made an integral part of the education and training of judges, lawyers and prosecutors at the national, regional and municipal levels, with a view to ensuring the effective application of women’s health rights, including relevant provisions of the Magna Carta and the Reproductive Health Act.

xii. In line with its Constitution providing for the separation of the Church and the State, ensure that State policies and legislation give priority to the protection of women’s health rights, in particular their sexual and reproductive health rights, over any religious postulates that may lead to de facto or de jure discrimination against women and negatively impact their access to sexual and reproductive health services, commodities and information, including by designing strategies to sensitize members of parliament, government officials, political parties, as well as local government’s executive and legislative, with a view to eliminating all ideological barriers limiting women’s access to sexual reproductive health services, commodities and information.

b)       Sexual and reproductive health rights and services

52. The Committee further urges that the State party:

i. Address the unmet need for contraception, especially in the City of Manila, with a particular focus on economically disadvantaged women and adolescent girls, by ensuring (1) universal and affordable access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health services, commodities and related information, which must include the availability of the safest and most technologically advanced methods of contraception, including oral contraception and emergency contraception, intra-uterine devices and ligation services and (2) adequate provision in national and local government budgets for sufficient supply of such contraceptive methods in all public health facilities, with a particular focus on local government units with low contraceptive prevalence rate; take all necessary measures to remove all economic and structural 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; and consider expanding the public health insurance system to cover the costs of modern contraceptive methods.

ii. Ensure that non-biased, scientifically sound and rights-based counseling and information on sexual and reproductive health services, including on all methods of contraception, are provided in all governmental, provincial and municipal health facilities in the State party to address rampant misinformation and to ensure that women can make informed decisions about the number and spacing of children and do not have to resort to unsafe abortions.

iii. Reintroduce emergency contraception in the State party, in particular to prevent early and unplanned pregnancies and in cases of sexual violence, as well as promote and raise awareness about the benefits of emergency contraceptives in such situations, particularly among adolescent girls.

iv. Ensure that systematic training on sexual and reproductive health rights, services and commodities is provided to healthcare professionals in all public hospitals, health centers and lying clinics, as well as to community health teams, especially in the City of Manila, with a view to addressing the loss of institutional capacity and knowledge, as well as the erosion of skills resulting from the enforcement of Executive Orders 003 and 030; and monitor the adequate allocation of funding by local government units for such systematic training to ensure that it is commensurate with their needs.

v. Provide women with access to quality post-abortion care in all public health facilities, especially in case of complications resulting from unsafe abortions, including by reintroducing misoprostol, in order to reduce women's maternal mortality and morbidity rates; ensure that women experiencing abortion-related complications are not reported to the law enforcement authorities, threatened with arrest, or subjected to physical or verbal abuse, discrimination, stigma, delays in access to or denial of care; adopt a patient privacy policy to ensure doctor-patient confidentiality, specifically when treating women for abortion-related complications; ensure effective reporting procedures, available for women in need of post-abortion care to complain about abuse and discrimination, without fear of retaliation; and conduct research on the incidence of unsafe abortions in the State party and their CEDAW/C/OP.8/PHL/1  impact on women’s health and maternal mortality and morbidity, and make such information available to the Committee in its next periodic report.

vi. Establish a regulatory framework and mechanism for the practice of conscientious objection by individual health professionals in order to ensure that such individual practice does not influence women’s decision-making in relation to their sexual and reproductive health and/or impede their access to sexual and reproductive health services, and ensure the provision of adequate sexual and reproductive health services by alternative medical health personnel.

vii. Ensure that local government units establish health care protocols and hospital procedures to prevent and sanction abuse of and discrimination against women, as well as complaint mechanisms within the decentralized health care systems, such as specialized investigation and appeal procedures or female health ombudspersons, to investigate complaints and impose appropriate sanctions on health care professionals responsible of abuse of and discrimination against female patients.

viii. Integrate age-appropriate education on sexual and reproductive health in school curricula, including comprehensive sex education covering prevention of early pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases for adolescent girls and boys, including HIV/AIDS.

ix. Conduct education and awareness-raising campaigns to enhance women and adolescent girls’ awareness of sexual and reproductive health rights and services, especially on the use and the lawfulness of modern contraceptive methods in the State party, and on the risks related to unsafe abortion. Such campaigns should also address health-related misconceptions about modern methods of contraception, as well as gender-based stereotypes discouraging the use of modern contraceptive methods.

x. Continue seeking technical support from the international community, as well as financial aid where relevant, and strengthen its collaboration with and support to civil society organizations, including women’s organizations, in order to enhance women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services, commodities, and information, including by fostering national consultation on these issues.


Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
Published Date: 
Culturally Justified Violence Against Women