The Philippines: legal aid providers commit to help eliminate discrimination against women

Today, the ICJ and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) concluded a two-day workshop on eliminating gender discriminatory attitudes and behaviours towards women with a commitment to step up efforts on the protection of rights of women in the country.

Participants at the workshop were lawyers from IBP’s legal aid committees from the Eastern and Western Visayas Regions.

The workshop was held in Bohol from 25 to 26 May 2018.

“Legal aid providers are at the frontline of assisting women in accessing justice,” said Frederick Rawski, ICJ’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.

“It is critical that they are able to immediately detect discriminatory conduct against the women they are assisting and help in eliminating such discrimination,” he added.

Recourse to gender stereotypes in the administration of justice widespread in the Philippines and they impact women’s access to justice.

Participants at the workshop noted, in this respect, examples such as the belief that women, unlike men, are weak in the physical and cognitive sense, and the ‘virtuous-or-good-woman-versus-bad-woman-or slut’ stereotype that are still reflected in law and court decisions in Philippines.

It was noted that the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women had emphasized that “stereotyping and gender bias in the justice system have far-reaching consequences for women’s full enjoyment of their human rights.”

The discussions during the two-day workshop also focused on strengthening the capacity of legal aid providers to further enhance access to justice of women whose loved ones and relatives had been extra-judicially killed.

Atty. Abdiel Dan Fajardo, National President of the IBP addressed the ongoing extrajudicial killings and culture of impunity in the Philippines that affects women particularly.

He said: “Without combatting the culture of impunity, legal aid lawyers cannot enhance access to justice for women. Therefore, it is high time to bolster the knowledge and awareness of legal aid lawyers in combatting impunity that affect women and their children.”

It was recalled that the remarks of the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, in her report to the Human Rights Council in 2017, stressed that women are particularly affected by the extrajudicial killing of their partners and other family members.

The Special Rapporteur noted that in the Philippines, since majority of the victims are men, their female partners, “by virtue of their gender-based roles, are left to confront the associated stigma, fear, insecurity and economic deprivation, in addition to the burdens of identifying and burying their dead loved ones and seeking justice.”

At the Bohol workshop, ICJ and IBP also signed a Memorandum of Agreement to commence joint work on strengthening the IBP’s National Center for Legal Aid (NCLA).

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