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Discrimination loopholes

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There are loopholes in the Philippines’ legal framework that still allow discrimination against women to happen, especially within the family, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, as it called on policymakers to design interventions to “transform” discriminatory social norms.

The recently released 2024 Social Institution and Gender Index (SIGI) report for Southeast Asia provided fresh analysis of the setbacks and progress toward gender equality in the region by picking up on the gender equality scores it had given to 140 countries all over the world in the 2023 edition of the report.

Last year, the Philippines obtained an overall SIGI score of 50, which the OECD said, denotes “high levels of discrimination” compared to the regional and global average scores of 39 and 29, respectively. The country scored 57 in the “discrimination in the family” dimension, 50 in terms of “restricted access to productive and financial resources,” 49 in “restricted physical integrity,” and 42 in “restricted civil liberties.”

Since 2021, the Philippines has yet to plug loopholes in legislations that regulate affairs related to family and marriage for Muslim and non-Muslim individuals, noting that the current legal framework has provisions that “weaken women’s rights.”

For instance, the OECD said the Family Code has discriminatory provisions that restrict a women’s right to be the legal guardian of her child. The law also limits a married woman’s right to equally administer land assets and properties of the household. The Code of Muslim Personal Laws, meanwhile, limits a woman’s guardianship over her child and grants men more rights to divorce, it noted.

The OECD also flagged “distinct legislations” that “weaken” Filipino women’s rights when it comes to family and marriage matters.

On the bright side, OECD also commended “positive highlights” in the country’s progress toward gender equality, particularly the existence of laws that guarantee women and men equal rights in terms of freedom and movement, access to justice, and political voice.

While the Philippines has supposedly been doing well when it comes to gender equality, there will always be areas the need improvement, and in this case, it is the legal loopholes that allow discrimination to happen that need attention in order to be eliminated. The trouble with such loopholes is that unless they are closed or eliminated, those who know how to exploit it can continue to discriminate against women without getting into trouble. These may be little things for those that are not affected, but as long as it exists, inequality will remain a problem, especially for the women that are affected.

Hopefully, with the attention that has been focused on those loopholes, our government can start working with the affected sectors to make our society even more fair for all genders.* 

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