Autumn 2017 edition - page 34-35

Unbeknownst to many, the Philippines has
one of the smallest gender disparities in the world,
ranking 7th in the Global Gender Gap Report of
2015, above both the United Kingdom and the US,
who rank 18th and 28th respectively. The Philip-
pines has had two female presidents, Corazon
Aquino and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, as well as its
first female Supreme Court justice, Cecilia Muñoz
Palma in 1973, nearly 10 years before the US. The
gender gap has been closed in both health care and
education, reflecting generations of efforts made
by women in order to achieve equality socially and
The founding of the Asociacion Feminista
Filipina in June 1905 marked the start of the femi-
nist movement in the Philippines - key members of
which included the club’s first leader, Dona Con-
cepcion Felix and soon after, PuraVillanueva. The
Asociacion Feminista Filipina’s aims were at that
time restricted to social issues such as prison re-
forms and the improvement of education, but the
arrival of two foreign women in 1907 caused the
movement to refocus on suffrage. Carrie Chapman
Catt and Aletta Jacobs were American and Dutch
suffrage activists who promoted their cause inter-
nationally. A meeting between these two activists
and the Filipino women leaders resulted in the
establishment of the Society for the Advancement
ofWomen in 1912.
Despite the efforts made by Filipino women
and the backing of several US governors-general,
it took 26 years before the first women’s suffrage
bill was brought to congress in 1933. However, the
1935 constitution created a larger issue; the right of
suffrage could only be given to women if ‘not less
than 300,000 women vote’ for the cause in a formal
plebiscite. A strong campaign was produced by
women’s organisations to urge the Filipino women
to register to vote. In April of 1937, 86 per cent of
the 29 per cent of eligible women voters cast their
votes, culminating in 447,725 affirmative votes –
well above the 300,000 stipulated by the govern-
ment. September 1937 finally saw the ratification of
the women’s right to vote in the Philippines.
However, in current Filipino culture, machis-
mo still thrives off of the long-standing, traditional
familial edifices, which are further reiterated by
their current President – Rodrigo Duterte. Presi-
dent Duterte casts a significant shadow over the
achievement of women in the Philippines; his mi-
sogynistic views and statements have both shocked
and disgusted many of the public. On one occa-
sion, Duterte recalled a 1989 prison siege in Davao
City Jail during his first term as mayor, where an
Australian lay missionary was assaulted and killed
by inmates, and remarked that he, as the mayor,
‘should have
been first’
to rape her.
The domi-
nance of Ca-
tholicism in
society also
portrays a
harsh real-
ty for
women in
the Philippines, as the Catholic Church is strongly
opposed to the liberalisation of the law on abortion;
in the Philippines, abortion is a criminal offense and
not permitted even if a woman’s life is at risk. Due
to these factors, the Philippines still
have a long way to go before com-
plete gender equality is achieved.
Whilst the Philippines is re-
garded as having one of the small-
est gender disparities in the world,
areas such as political empower-
ment and economic opportunities
cause the country to fall short of
complete gender equality. Nev-
ertheless, the Philippines remains
ranked highly along with many
Nordic countries, who are perhaps
more recognised for their gender
Feminism in the Philippines
Left: Filipino women celebrating the Supreme Court decision
declaring the Reproductive Health Law constitutional
machismo still thrives
off of the long-standing,
traditional familial edi-
fices, which are further
reiterated by their cur-
rent President – Rodrigo
equality, and if the progress made in the 20th cen-
tury is anything to go by, the Philippines could be
well on it’s way to further closing it’s gender gap.
Roxy Chakrabarty 12K
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