The WD Women and Law Class of 2010-2011 under the supervision of Atty. Evalyn Ursua, is holding a special culminating activity called “Women Claiming Rights with the United Nations:
Making the CEDAW and ICCPR Work for Women,” to be held on 23 May 2011, Monday, from 5:30 to 7:00pm at the Grounds of the UP College of Social Work and Community Development (CSWCD).
What started out as a very engaging academic discussion on various theories and policy discussion on feminist legal theory culminated with a bold move to uphold the rights of four women at the level of the United Nations. Supervised by Atty. Evalyn Ursua, who is also the legal counsel for the complainants, the Women and Law Class of 11 graduate students were able to draft two sets of communications accessing the Optional Protocols of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination of Women (CEDAW) approved by member states in 1981 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) approved by member states in 1976.
To date however the Philippine government continues to fail in its positive obligations to protect the rights of women and girl children coming from various backgrounds, sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). The Philippine Justice System, even with advances in international human rights laws and standards, continues to use archaic gender myths and biases as its standards for its decisions.
The Case of “R” via Communications to the CEDAW-OP
The case of R, a deaf minor raped-victim is an example of the failure of the State to defend the dignity of Women with Disabilities. After five years of prosecution and trial marked by a lack of sign language interpreting, insensitivity to the needs of R as a Woman with Disability, and several discriminatory aspects of the legal proceedings, the Court acquitted her perpetrator, basing its decision largely on gender myths and stereotypes. With no other local legal remedies available, R brings her complaint before the UN Committee as violations of her human rights under the CEDAW as well as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
To this day, she continues to deal with the trauma of the rape and the violation of her rights during the proceedings. She seeks relief from the U.N. Committee to regain dignity for herself and her family. She also requests for critical improvements to be implemented in local and international legislation, the training of judiciary, and increased access to services in general. As the first Deaf woman to bring her case before the CEDAW Optional Protocol, she speaks for the many Deaf women and girls who suffer in silence and are unable to seek justice for themselves.
The Case of Naomi, Rio and Julianna to the ICCPR-OP
Accessing one of two Optional Protocols of the ICCPR, complainants Naomi Fontanos, Rio Moreno and Julianna Giessel, Filipina women of transsexual experience, bring their cases of discrimination to the United Nations. In October 2007, when Justice Corona penned a decision denying the petition of Silverio to change her name and sex on her birth records following personal efforts to harmonise her body and gender identity, the court did not just decide on the fate of Silverio but of many Filipinos with transsexual experience. The decision penned by Justice Corona meant not only the death of Silverio’s dream but also that of many transsexual women in the Philippines (and even in different parts of the world) who have now been denied of legal recourse to address the incongruence in the gender identity they live with the legal documents they hold. The Corona decision illustrates the failure of the Philippine Government to recognise their gender identity and is in violation of Articles 2 and 26 of the ICCPR.
In putting forth this communication, Fontanos, Moreno and Giessel seek for the following relief: 1) for the Judiciary to develop an education and training program for trial judges and public prosecutors on gender recognition that is designed to make them understand SOGI issues and the condition of transsexualism; 2) for Congress to pass the pending Anti-Discrimination Bill that will protect LGBT and prohibit and protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, education, as well as medical and public facilities; and, 3) Enact a gender recognition law that will provide transgendered persons with legal recognition in their acquired gender. The proposed law should be one that recognises a person’s gender identity and should not require a person to undergo gender reassignment treatment to qualify.
For Fontanos, Moreno and Giessel, taking part in the communication has revived their dreams of being recognised as women without having to choose their gender over their citizenship.
“We really feel good about taking part in this communication as it is a way we claim to define our identities as women and Filipinas. If this communication is acted on favourably by the Philippine government, we can live our lives as women, Filipinas with the love and support of our friends and family.”
Prof. Roselle Leah Rivera, Department Chair of the Women and Development Programme of the UP College of Social Work and Community Development and Atty. Evalyn Ursua, UP Professor, take pride in the historic accomplishment of the Women and the Law class that was able to craft communications for the United Nations. Rivera and Ursua note how students of the MAWD are continually encouraged towards concrete ways to apply their learning in the programme with the various advocacies they engage in. Ursua further shares, “I think more than learning about the application of different international instruments to specific advocacies, the students were able to concretise goals of the WD Programme as part of the UP CSWCD’s commitment as an academic institution to continue to engage with various movements and organisations in human rights advocacy.”
For more information, please contact: Marion Cabrera (0917 8530218) or Liza Martinez (0927 5288662) for the trans and deaf cases, respectively.