By Julianne Edon Gabis
Although the Philippines is one of the most gender-equal countries in Asia and has climbed to 8th place in the latest report of Global Gender Gap, there is still an overwhelming amount of men dominating the world of politics in the country, with Filipino women being inadequately represented in top political positions in the land.
Gender inequality is still a prevailing element of Philippine politics according to the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS). Not even a quarter (21.27%) of the seats in the House of Representatives were held by women in the 14th Congress. Out of 268 House members, only 57 of were women.
The percentage climbed up a notch during the 15th Congress by 2% with a total of 66 women elected to Congress sitting next to 216 men. The 16th Congress, however, had seats for 64 women out of 234 raising the percentage up a bit to 27%.
In the current Congress, only 3 out of 10 legislators in the House are women making 87 women lawmakers sitting next to 209 men, surpassing the previous record of the 16th Congress. Women in politics have been on a steady rise. According to PIDS, women currently hold roughly 1 in every 5 national and local elective positions. You’d think that ever since the victory of Elisa Ochoa, the first ever woman legislator in the country in 1941, there would be some serious progress. Although there is an improvement, such figures still reveal the truth about the Filipino perception regarding gender roles.
To this day, less than 30% of seats in the House of Representatives are held by female lawmakers.
Changes in Political Landscape
The existence of women in the world of Politics once was not even conceivable until the 20th century. Suffragists fought hard for the right of women to have a seat on the table and that right had only been obtained in 1937, not even a hundred years ago. The National Assembly announced the plebiscite with a required onset of 300,000 votes affirming the women’s right to vote.
The suffrage movement was the first legal act the Filipino women officially took part in and it forever changed the structure of the political system in the Philippines. It paved the way for many firsts in Philippine politics.
It was on 2016 when Geraldine Roman, from the first legislative district seat of Bataan, went down in history and became the country’s first transwoman to ever be elected in the House of Representatives.
Laws like Republic Act 9710 or the Magna Carta for Women- the landmark law of the 14th congress- helps in steadily eradicating discrimination against women, recognizing, protecting, and promoting their rights in the workforce. The act prohibits any form of omission or discrimination in the matters of gender whether done by public and private entities or individuals. This also includes stereotypical portrayal of females in media.
The SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression) Equality Act has been pushed in the House intended to prevent various acts of discrimination against people based on their gender expression.
Throughout the years, women have been fighting for the empowerment of their fellow women in Congress despite being a minority in the House. Women of the 17th Congress pushed House approval for laws addressing maternal issues. This includes the 105 Days Expanded Maternity Leave Bill extending assistance to employed women after their maternal period.
Many laws are ratified in legislature protecting the rights of women and promoting gender equality but the question is whether these laws have teeth to make a difference.
The laws enacted by the Congress affect all in our country, regardless of gender, age, or ethnicity and winning candidates have a direct hand in molding our laws for the betterment of our society. Given such conditions in the gender gap in the legislative branch of the government or in any branch at all, this inequality in gender distribution inevitably affects the kind of laws prioritized in Congress.