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MANILA, Philippines – Advocates of women’s rights are pushing for stronger “gender provisions” in the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
“Tuloy ang laban sa gender (Continue the fight for gender equality),” said Socorro Reyes of the Center for Legislative Development International, a non-profit organization promoting citizen participation in the legislative process.
A week before the House of Representatives ad hoc Bangsamoro Committee votes on the BBL, advocates, media practitioners, and the women involved in the Bangsamoro Peace Process came together to discuss the importance of gender equality in the peace process.
“It is true that the Bangsamoro Transition Commission did a lot of work to make sure that gender is there, but there’s still a lot we can do to strengthen,” Reyes said during a workshop organized by the Women’s Peace Table (WPT) and the Women’s Feature Service, with support from the USAID.
WPT is a project aiming to amplify women’s voices in the peace process. It is implemented by the Mindanao Commission on Women, the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy, and the Women and Gender Institute of Miriam College. Its convenors also include representatives from various women’s organizations.
In the current BBL draft, 8 out of the 16 Articles mention some provisions on women’s rights, their roles in governance and development, and protection against violence. (READ: How different is the Bangsamoro from ARMM?)
Advocates, however, say these provisions could be further improved to conform with the Magna Carta for Women and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
The BBL should be “harmonized” with national and international laws, advocates stressed.
To do so, the WPT proposed the following amendments to BBL’s provisions related to women:
On women’s participation
Existing provision: The Bangsamoro Council of Leaders includes women. Women have a right to a “meaningful political participation” and “lawful employment.”
The Bangsamoro Parliament will enact a law to recognize the important roles of women in nation-building, and to ensure women’s representation in decision and policy-making. Aside from the reserved seat for women in the Parliament, there should be at least one woman appointed in the Bangsamoro Cabinet.
Proposed amendments: Ensure that 40% of the Bangsamoro Council of Leaders are women.
Ensure women’s participation in “all” decision-making bodies of the Bangsamoro, and maintain gender balance (50:50 ratio between women and men) in the parliament, the Cabinet, and the Shariah Justice System.
On women’s rights
Existing provision: The Bangsamoro adheres to the principle of enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong.
Proposed amendment: All Bangsamoro policies, including customary laws, should conform with “international human rights and humanitarian standards,” including gender equality. The Bangsamoro Government shall promote, protect, and fulfill the basic human rights of everyone, as provided by national and international laws.
On civil service
Existing provision: The Bangsamoro Government shall develop a professional civil service corps.
Proposed amendment: Ensure gender balance for 3rd level positions in the government.
On Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM)
Existing provision: Establish a Bangsamoro DRRM Council.
Proposed amendment: Such council should formulate a “gender-sensitive” DRRM plan.
On women’s programs
Existing provision: Establish appropriate mechanisms for consultations with women, and special development programs and laws for women.
Proposed amendment: Ensure that women’s representation at all levels of development planning and program implementation is at least 40%.
On Bangsamoro parliament
Existing provision: Women have a reserved seat for sectoral representation.
Proposed amendment: Women should have “two reserved seats.”
On Electoral Code
Existing provision: The Bangsamoro MP shall submit 3 recommendations to the President on who should head the Bangsamoro Electoral Office.
Proposed amendment: The list of recommendations should include one woman. The Electoral Code should ensure the “full and equal participation of women in elections and plebiscites.”
Women’s “equal and full participation in the elections” should also be incorporated in the guidelines of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
On political parties
Existing provision: Encourage the formation of genuinely principled political parties.
Proposed amendment: There is a need for an “equitable representation of women” in the formation of “gender-responsive” political parties. Ensure “gender balance with women and men alternating in their closed party list” of approved candidates prior to election.
The Comelec should provide incentives to political parties with a “women’s agenda.”
On protecting women and children
Existing provision: Women and children are protected from violence, exploitation, abuse, or discrimination.
Proposed amendment: Indicate protection against “all forms of sexual and gender-based violence at all times, especially in situations of armed conflict, disasters, or other crisis situations.”
On justice system
Existing provision: For Muslims, the justice system in the Bangsamoro gives primary consideration to Shariah and customary rights and traditions of the indigenous peoples (IPs) in the Bangsamoro.
Proposed amendment: All these shall be “in accordance with international standards of human rights, including gender equality.
On intergovernmental fiscal policy board
Existing provision: The board is composed of the heads or representatives of appropriate ministries and offices in the Bangsamoro Government.
Proposed amendment: Ensure sectoral representation from women and IPs within the board.
Existing provisions: The Bangsamoro Government, with funding support from the central government, will intensify development efforts for rehabilitation as part of the normalization process.
The central government will also provide a Special Development Fund to the Bangsamoro for rehabilitation purposes.
Proposed amendment: Ensure gender-responsive approaches in security and peace-building. Establish a “Women’s Peace Fund,” primarily managed by women, as a window to the Special Development Fund.
Existing provision: Establish the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), an interim government during the transition period. Women should have representatives in the BTA.
Proposed amendment: The BTA should ensure that transitional justice mechanisms shall administer equitable, inclusive, and distributive justice regardless of class, creed, disability, gender, and ethnicity.
The BTA should also create a “Regional Commission on Women in the Bangsamoro,” a ministry mainstreaming gender in policies and programs. It will also monitor the implementations of law concerning women.
Although it suggested amendments to the BBL, the WPT praised its provison allocating at least 5% of the total budget appropriation of each ministry, office, and local government unit for gender and development (GAD) programs. This is in line with the national GAD budget policy.
Five to 30% of the official development funds received by the Bangsamoro will also be set aside to complement the GAD budget.
Advocates also lauded the BBL’s provision on creating a “Comprehensive Framework for Sustainable Development,” which seeks to reduce the vulnerability of women to climate change.
The WPT submitted their suggestions to the ad hoc committee.
“Kaso mukhang ‘di pinapansin (But it seems no one is paying attention),” said Reyes.
On Tuesday, May 19, the 75-member House ad hoc committee on the BBL will vote.
Advocates hope their suggestions will be considered during the plenary.
“It’s still possible if you have an articulate member of Congress who doesn’t only know how to talk, but also understands what he or she talks about,” Reyes said.
“That’s why I want the BBL to be passed, then you move to next venue, which is the Bangsamoro Government,” Reyes added. – Rappler.com