Posts Tagged ‘reproductive health’

pop goes the world: systems failure

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  21 March 2013, Thursday

Systems Failure

Our systems are killing us.

Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court voted 10 to 5 to halt for four months the implementation of Republic Act 10354, the “Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012,” otherwise known as the RH bill.

The 120-day status quo ante order is a setback for RH advocates, who have labored for nearly fifteen years to see this bill passed.  And it was passed by both Houses and signed by President Benigno Aquino III in December last year, but a slew of consolidated petitions filed in January this year led to this outcome.

Supreme Court spokesman Ted Te calls this order “preliminary” and says the highest court in the land may yet rule in favor of its legality.

The Roman Catholic Church, which prompted most, if not all, of the petitions against the RH Bill, hail this development as an answer to their prayers and “God’s will.”

The Department of Health had already marked last March 15 the signing of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the RH Bill.

DoH Secretary Enrique Ona said that the law “will empower women through informed choice and voluntarism…” as the IRR provides “improved access to family planning services…provision of mobile health clinics in remote and depressed areas, improvement of PhilHealth coverage on RH services especially for the poor,” and other support services.

Secretary Ona added, “This is just the beginning of our continuing effort to ensure that no woman will die while giving life.”

Statistics from womens’ rights advocate EnGendeRights say 11 women die each day from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Given that, 1,320 women might die during the 120 days of the SQA.

How many more women and children will die from botched abortions, miscarriages, complicated births, and the other risks and dangers of unwanted pregnancies?

Another system that needs revamping is the University of the Philippines’ tuition fee structure.

Because of glitches in the system that misclassified her fee bracket, placed her on leave of absence for non-payment of tuition, and took away her ID card, freshman Kristel Tejada took her life.

She could not bear to go on living when her best efforts to obtain a degree went to naught when, despite her academic performance and commitment to learning, the system failed her.

When I was a UP undergraduate in the days before STFAP, I paid around five hundred pesos per semester. It was a lean time for my family, so an uncle paid my way through college, my entire education costing him around five thousand pesos in tuition fees.

I would not have been able to finish my bachelor’s degree if I had gone to any other school, as it would have been too expensive and we might not have found anyone willing to shoulder a higher cost.

The STFAP was implemented after I graduated and since then no one can obtain a UP education for that little amount of money anymore.

And why not? Isn’t the government supposed to subsidize education in public schools, especially in the state university?

All Kristel wanted was a better life through learning, but the rules of the system made this inaccessible to her.

Education in the state colleges and universities should be made free or as close to it as possible, for the Iskolar ng Bayan to flourish and give back to Inang Bayan.

Government needs to see what’s important and what’s not – and should they need to be reminded, the youth and their proper education are important, for they are the future of the country.

UP failed Kristel, and failed in its mission. This is not the UP I went to. This is not the UP I love and am proud of. This is not the UP that it should be.

Various colleges of UP are holding a luksang pamantasan for Kristel with activities such as indignation rallies and candle-lightings to commemorate her tragedy and fight for change.

Perhaps we should also hold a luksang bayan for all the systems that have failed and continue to fail us.  *** 

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pop goes the world: pass the divorce and reproductive health bills now

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 2 June 2010, Thursday

Pass the Divorce and Reproductive Health Bills Now

With Malta having approved a divorce law after a recent referendum, the Philippines remains the only country on the planet today that has no divorce law.

The Vatican, a city-state, does not recognize divorce either; this is only to be expected in the tiny (less than half a square kilometer in area) enclave of the Roman Catholic Church.

Ninety-five percent of Malta’s population is said to be Roman Catholic; yet, a couple of weeks ago, nearly 54% of its 306,000 voters cast their choices in favor of a measure that many feel is long overdue.

Maltese citizens enter the building to cast their vote in the divorce referendum on May 28.
Photo via BEN BORG CARDONA/AFP/Getty Images here.

Chile, in 2004, was the last country before Malta to legalize divorce.

Gabriela partylist representative Luz Ilagan is now seeking approval of a divorce bill (HB 1799) that had been filed during the previous Congress, but that was shelved.

Rep. Ilagan has been quoted as saying, “I appeal to my colleagues in Congress to… give Filipino couples in irreparable and unhappy marriages this option.”

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte favors the move, having said to reporters, “It is very difficult to let two people who cannot live together, continue to live together.”

Senator Pia Cayetano is also in favor, while in opposition is Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, saying, “Let’s not get into the habit of copying what other countries are doing.”

Naturally, the Philippine Catholic hierarchy announced “it would oppose any attempt to introduce divorce in the country through a referendum.” Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said referendums are a political act, “not a moral exercise.” Says Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz, “What is right or wrong is not dependent on how many voted for it. What is moral or not is not a question of popular vote.”

With a related topic being discussed by lawmakers and society in general – the reproductive health bill – it is time for our country to face these issues head-on and make decisions that will benefit the greater number of Filipinos – not just the Roman Catholic ones.

The majority of marriages are broken up by infidelity and domestic abuse. The 2010 Annual Human Rights Report, conducted by the US State Department and released last March 9, points to “an alarming increase of domestic violence” in the Philippines – a 91% upward spike on the abuse cases reported to the Philippine National Police.

The only legal remedy Filipinos can resort to is a petition for marriage annulment; these are very expensive, which is unfair to the greater number of Filipinos who cannot afford this legal remedy, or any legal remedy for that matter.

It is also apparent that the majority of people filing for annulment are women, as fellow MST columnist Atty. Linda Jimeno said in one of her previous columns. It is often left to the women to clean up the messes made by the men in their lives. Why make it hard for them to have a second chance at happiness?

The OFW diaspora is also one reason for the break-up of families, through the adultery of either or both of the spouses. One of the negative factors that has led to this phenomenon is the framework of economic policies that promotes the Filipino worker as our number one export as a stop-gap to the overwhelming poverty in our country.

However, the social costs are high, from children growing up without one or both parents, and broken relationships that can no longer be made to work for a myriad of reasons.

The reality is that not all marriages work out. Not everyone is Catholic. But everyone deserves a chance to start over and find peace and happiness.

I myself had to save up for eight years to afford an annulment, because my ex-husband, who had left me and my children for another woman with whom he had a child, refused to get one; however, it was clear to both of us that we could never reconcile, because I was a victim of domestic abuse. The police refused to help me, saying the beatings were not their concern: “Away mag-asawa yan.”

And yes, before I filed for an annulment, I had counseling by a psychologist-priest who, in a lengthy therapy session, helped me realize that I could no longer stay with someone who was harming me and with whom I was not safe.

It was only after I obtained the annulment that the relationship between my ex and I improved. It was mainly because all expectations were lifted and we were both free to go on with our lives. We have also matured enough to settle into our roles as parents to our two daughters, something we were unable to do properly with unresolved issues hanging over our heads.

For people who cannot afford annulments or refuse to file, they simply leave their spouses, some to cohabit with other partners and have more children out of wedlock. Is this not what the Catholic Church calls “living in sin”? Yet this is the reality that they seek to perpetuate. Hypocrisy rears its ugly head once more.

Although it is claimed that 85% of Filipinos profess to be Roman Catholic, how many of them actually are? Where does this statistic come from? Why do clerics and congressmen cite this figure to claim “majority support” against the RH Bill and various incarnations of the divorce bill?

Are we a nation of children? Are none of us old nor mature enough to decide for ourselves, that a patriarchal society heavily influenced by celibate clerics bent on curtailing womens’ rights over their bodies and over their lives, still insists on having the final say?

What we are looking at here is a question of freedom of choice. Catholics and those who, for personal or religious reasons, do not wish to divorce nor use contraceptives need not do so. But let the options be available for others to take if they so decide.

Image here.

Lawmakers, whether they are Catholic or not, have to remember that they are representing not only Catholics, but also people of other faiths and ideologies. It is through using logic, reason, and science that they should decide about matters that also affect non-Roman Catholics.

Meanwhile, the average person shrugs and goes with the dating gawi. As a person living with a “second wife” said, “Walang pakialam ang kahit sino kung ano ang gawin ko sa buhay ko. Diskarte ko ‘to.”

This is not about “copying other countries”. A referendum will decide once and for all what the people really need and want. This is not about “moral” issues. This is about the law and about choices for all Filipinos.

We are not a nation of children. We can make our own decisions and take a stand. In the matter of the RH and divorce bills, all we have to do is insist on our human rights and claim the freedom of choice that is rightfully ours. ***

VAW poster image here.

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pop goes the world: gender, sexuality, and body image

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 14 October 2010, Thursday

Gender, Sexuality, and Body Image

So, what about reproductive health again?

The RH issue may have receded from the front page and editorials recently, but for a great many people in this country, it is still very much a focus of utmost concern.

First, let us give kudos where they are due. As the character Elle Woods in the movie “Legally Blonde” would say, “Snaps for President Aquino!” Despite pressure from the Catholic Church in the Philippines, the President did not flinch from his – the government’s – stand to disseminate information on family planning options as well as to give away condoms and other forms of artificial birth control as necessary.

With the word “excommunication” floated by some church leaders (not all of them, showing that the Church is in fact internally divided on the matter, though they present a united “corporate” stance), the President stood firm and asserted that it is best that the state adopt a policy of making available information on reproductive health, presenting it as “responsible parenting”.

Had he buckled under the pressure, we would have been dragged back all the way to the Middle Ages, instead of being only partially in them, considering how much influence the Church still has in society.

At present, the RH Bill that has been filed in Congress is still being debated.

Much has been said by others about the issue directly; let’s talk about the ramifications, the threads that hang off the woven fabric, because RH also touches upon the topics of gender, sexuality, and body image, among others.

In the United States, bullying of homosexual adolescents and young adults has increased in recent years.  Last March, Constance McMillen, an “out” lesbian student of Itawamba Agricultural High School in Mississippi, was forbidden by school authorities from attending her senior prom with her girlfriend. She complained, filed a case, and made global news.

Constance McMillen stood up for gender rights. Image from here.

In the face of public scorn, and a judge’s decree allowing Constance to attend with her date, the school set up a prom for her and other similarly-oriented students, while at the same time staging a secret prom for Constance’s other classmates.

At that same school in February, transgender student Juin Baize, born male, was sent home for wearing feminine clothing and makeup to school.

The school’s harsh treatment of gender variant students sends a very strong signal that in that place at least, homosexuality is not accepted. However, the larger, and frightening, concept that surfaces is that being different in Itawamba practically means social death.

In other cases, it leads to the real thing. Last month, Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi committed suicide after his roommate streamed his same-sex dorm room encounter on the Internet.

Tyler Clementi was also a talented violinist. Image from here.

In the Philippines, the culture shows more acceptance towards gay people, although bullying is not uncommon. “We didn’t let them pee alone”, said one graduate of a Catholic boys’ high school. His son, who goes to the same school, now says that a clique of gay students from different grade levels often walk together for “protection” and are assertive enough to stand up for themselves.

However, organized religion still looks askance at the LGBT lifestyle, and gender-variant people are often exposed to public ridicule. Entertainment culture often depicts male homosexuals and transgenders as objects of comedic fun, whereas lesbians go largely unmentioned.

In terms of body image, the Filipino standards of beauty are still largely Western-oriented and place greater pressure on women rather than men. Mestizas are still the rage, which is obvious in all the forms of mass media, whether print (models in fashion magazines and print ads), broadcast and film (actors and actresses in telenovelas, television commercials), even outdoor (billboards).

In addition, there is considerable social onus on women to become slim, even if this is not their genetic body type; to whiten their skin, stretch out wrinkles, lift their noses, gain big breasts, and, for those of Chinese heritage, to acquire eyefolds – again, all to achieve the mestiza look, along with a youthful ideal. This is why Dr. Vicky Belo and other “celebrity” plastic surgeons are famous and wealthy – because they cater to this distorted sense of beauty that is not about acceptance but about change.

It is women that get the raw deal when body image is discussed. With their attention focused on their looks and age rather than on their brains and character, their power in society is diminished and their potential contributions unrealized. A ploy, some feminists say, in a patriarchal culture, to repress women.

As for sexuality? There are few mentions of women’s right to sexual pleasure in the culture. Perhaps only in the ads for “men’s teas”, which still emphasize the importance of men’s staying power in bed to please his woman – not necessarily his wife.

Which again brings to mind the RH bill and the Church. Many Filipinos, even those who profess to be Catholic, are just doing what they want and enjoy sex using condoms and other kinds of artificial birth control, despite their religion’s frowning upon such. Preference often takes priority in a person’s life over dogma, especially when the latter is deemed impractical.

The discourse on reproductive health should make one think about not only birth control, but also about the entire issue of gender and sexuality. In other words, we must approach the RH issue from a holistic point of view. As business expert Peter Senge has advocated, “systems thinking” has proven successful for analyzing social systems. Instead of breaking the issue up into small parts and taking these one at a time, we need to look at RH as a whole, taking into account the complex and interrelated interactions, loops, and links that affect it.   ***

Orlistat billboard image found here, Rhino Tea ad here.

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