Yes to divorce
The Philippines is the last country in the world that does not allow divorce.
Technically the Philippines and the Vatican are the last two countries in the world which don’t have divorce. But, given that most of the citizens of the Vatican are by definition celibate, this is a technicality.
The rest of the world has realized that people can dissolve a marriage for many good reasons ranging from the practical to the spiritual.
People change in the course of a lifetime, often without anyone noticing or meaning it. Two people can grow so far apart, that they no longer love each other, much less enjoy each other’s company.
Often, too, people make mistakes. And, simple well-meaning and honest mistakes should not carry with them a lifetime of misery, especially if no one would be harmed by undoing the mistake.
Sometimes, that mistake can be a real doozy such as when one gets married to an abusive womanizing man. (Yes, yes, men can be victims too but mostly it is women. Having said this though I would beg the reader to keep in mind that whenever I say “women” it is only because these are the majority in each situation I mention but that it can happen to men too.)
This tragedy happens all too often to upright and praiseworthy women who cannot in the least be blamed for their misfortune. None of us women can know for sure what patriarchy has in store for us when we marry. As someone who has counseled with the psychologically and physically battered and blue, I can only say that we are the most hard-hearted of people when we ask these women to continue in their marriages because of some religious or moral standard about the sanctity of marriage. Often too, this moralistic streak is upheld by pseudo-scientific claims that children of broken families are inevitably scarred by this brokenness. False!
The idea that marriage is sacred and that women should sacrifice themselves to uphold this tenet is but another proof of how women are always secondary human beings to some religious. No human being should be asked to live in violence. Especially since that violence is so grave it can often lead to death.
And no, I did not say that if the violence is not yet life threatening that women should stay. My idea is that if a person wants to break off a relationship no matter how fundamental, that happens to be a person’s right.
Last I heard also, the Philippines is a secular country.
This means that some of us, myself included, are not religious. Therefore we do not believe in marriage nor its sacredness. Do not get me wrong. Atheists, agnostics and other freethinkers may not believe in marriage but we do believe in committed, long-standing relationships based on equality, love and respect. This is why many of us are in stable and happy family formations. We really do not need moral censure nor the fear of hellfire to keep us this way – thank you very much. All we need is our keen moral sense.
What those of us in the non-religious community do wish to clarify is that being an atheist does not give you the right to have several wives as one government official has claimed. Most of us are law-abiding people and we understand this is against the law. But more than this we understand that polygamy is often a fundamental violation of the well-being of the wives.
Apparently, this is also the belief of the Manobo tribe who discovered rather belatedly that another high official has made himself a member of their tribe. This, in order to give himself the license to have mistresses. He claims that this is ancient tribal practice. Yet as Datu Isidro Indao says, they don’t do that stuff anymore because, well, it’s a fundamental violation of the rights of women. So it would seem this government officials is in a tribe of one. A very culturally backward tribe at that.
So while I am at it, can the moral police please lay off a certain celebrity who has decided on a live-in arrangement? It is likely that she and her partner are far more honorable and loving with each other than a number of our leaders. Religious ceremonies are not the most reliable criteria for morality and happiness in intimate relationships. Even if they were, our Constitution guarantees our right to live without them.
So I do hope that we eventually get a divorce law.
But the devil is in the details of the law.
Men still have an overwhelming advantage in the job market, especially for higher paid positions such as Speaker of the House of Representatives. It is also true that men like this hardly lift a muscle when they are at home, except perhaps to lift their feet so that their wife can sweep the floor underneath. They do not do much child rearing, seeing as it is very difficult for said Speaker to rear so many children by so many women in many households.
Thus divorce laws must look into these inequalities to ensure that women are protected and their stronger emotional ties to their children are recognized.
Unless a proposed divorce law takes these into consideration, divorce can lead to the impoverishment of women and the validation of the sexual double standard for men.
We will need to understand that courts must ensure that women are not left poor, that children are economically supported and that gender-fair custody rules must take into consideration the preeminent right of the primary care giver.
Naturally, we also need to understand that some men will use the divorce law so that they can abandon their innocent wives in order to please their latest mistress. (Let the jerk go and take the child support, I say!) But should the wife be unable to heed my advice, then it is obvious that the divorce law must also ensure that there is mutual consent and cannot be invoked merely by one party in order to indulge his irresponsible self. – Rappler.com
Sylvia Estrada Claudio, MD, PhD, teaches Women and Development Studies at the College of Social Work and Community Development, University of the Philippines.