27 Nov We Need to Empower Women
What does it mean to be empowered as a woman? One of the goals of female empowerment is to enable women to do what men do, to have the same freedoms and privileges men have. In order to identify which rights women lack, we could simply ask what freedoms and privileges men currently enjoy more than women.
For one, there are still social conventions that prevent women from having careers that men have. In the Philippines, many women are still relegated to the home, while their husbands enjoy the power granted by financial rewards.
However, housewives who have little to no access to money are left completely dependent on their husbands, creating a hierarchical structure in a household, where a wife has to adhere to the husband’s desires and decisions, or risk losing financial support.
But why is there social pressure for a woman to stay at home, while a man goes off to work?
The situation could be related to child-rearing. In the Philippines, many still view women as primarily an instrument of reproduction. For example, a common question tossed around the dinner table to young couples or single women is, “When do you plan on having kids?” It’s as if a woman’s sole role in society is to raise children.
This is one of the major sources of gender inequality. When the duty and burden of child rearing is placed on women, when their primary responsibility as citizens is associated with reproduction, there is social pressure to relegate a woman to that role.
In conservative countries like the Philippines, where religion plays a role in the conceptualization and implementation of laws, women are forced into that role.
One manifestation of this influence is the lack of safe and legal abortion. The absence of such an option robs women of choice and creates an innate inequality between the sexes.
For one, a woman is left vulnerable to the burden of an unintended pregnancy. In fact, the burden and consequences of such pregnancies are usually carried by women.
The child-support laws that currently exist in the Philippines are so poorly implemented that majority of single mothers receive little to no support from the fathers of their children.
As a consequence, when a man and a woman engage in a sexual act, it is often the woman who has to deal with the stigma more; many people would judge her as being more reckless, since she is seen to have risked more that the man did: She risked an irrevocable pregnancy.
And that’s precisely the case in the Philippines where a woman is forced to carry out a pregnancy, even if it is unintended. Without laws that allow for safe and legal abortion, women are left extremely vulnerable.
An unintended pregnancy can prematurely push a woman into a domestic role, making her economically dependent on her partner. It can also interrupt a young woman’s studies, and compromise her ability to find financially rewarding work, once again, forcing her into a supportive role, where her husband is expected to make and control the finances.
In other words, women are currently at the mercy of their wombs. If they are unfortunate enough to become pregnant at the wrong time, they are forced to deal with the consequences for the rest of their lives. They may be forced to deal with the burden permanently.
How about men? What if they accidentally get someone pregnant? Is there a government policy that forces them into a fatherhood role? Is there a law that prevents them from continuing their careers or education? If a man gets a woman pregnant, he has relatively more freedom to go on with his life as if nothing different had happened.
In the Philippines, men can often refuse to be fathers, but women, relatively, can’t refuse to be mothers. That is one of the biggest culprits for the existing inequality between men and women.
For more resources on abortion please visit: EnGendeRight’s Policy Briefs and Fact Sheets
Padilla, C. R. (2016, December). “Access to Safe and Legal Abortion and Post-Abortion Care Can Save Filipino Women’s Lives.” Retrieved on: October 29, 2017.