Have women been equated inferior against men

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Throughout history, the class of Eve had suffered terror, deprivation of rights, discriminations and other innumerable harassments. Most casualties of past wars were women for they were robbed of their power to resist and were scantly protected. The emergence of radical feminism in the post-war 80's has not only placed women spirit in avatar but has changed how the world looks at them. Ironically, the women movement points out that men and women are different, but each should be accorded with equal respect and rights.

Invisible victims

Amnesty International had recognized that women are under tremendous emotional avalanche since most violations committed are concealed in public. The government, on the other hand, is showing its desire to limit the political and civil rights of women in the United Nations (UN) Conference rather than promote it, thus making women more susceptible to their rights' violations. "So far governments have more or less ignored human rights violations against women-and sometimes effectively given a green light to torture or rape by their police or soldiers," Amnesty International said.

Women are always at risks. During the war, they comprise 80% of the world's refugee population. Oftentimes, they give in to "sexual favors" to guarantee a safe passage to the security forces or even to smugglers. One of the concrete examples is the comfort women way back in 1940's. As women continually participate in politics, as lawyers or human rights activists, they are subjected to torture or being imprisoned not because of being a woman but simply for the reason that women are prided in fighting for justice that the government has seen largely as a threat. There are reports that they are raped in custody and forced to take virginity tests by the police. Women are most likely to suffer abuse than men but less likely to get public exposure for these. Increasingly, women are standing up for their rights as political opponents, trade unionists, activists, lawyers, and community leaders. Dr. Manorani Saravanamuttu, the mother of a journalist abducted and killed in Sri Lanka in 1990, captured the spirit of their activism. Even though she was told that she would also be killed if she spoke out, Dr. Manorani has played a leading role in a mass movement of 25,000 mothers of Sri Lanka's "disappeared". "They expect you to curl up in a corner and die of fear," she said in 1991 interview. "The women are saying 'we are going mad with grief at home alone,' now at least we're doing something."

Women in Labor

For women workers in the Philippines, it is not right to adopt the slogan "women's participation" since the banner is misleading as the reason behind the so called empowerment has been ignored. When Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed presidency after the ouster of Joseph Estrada, she leads us to expect that a lady president could at least lessen, if not totally eradicate the abuses on women especially, thus, making a positive impact on women's society.

But women workers are having second thoughts. There are many cases of crimes that remain unsolved in our country. Let us take the example of 800 workers of Chong Won Fashion located in the largest export-processing zone (EPZ) in the Philippines that produce garments exclusively for GAP, American Eagle, DKNY, and other foreign signature labels. The regular workers are paid Php 217 per day for manufacturing clothes that is sold in the US for $50 a piece. On the other hand, the contractual workers who comprise half of the laborers are paid less Php 162 per day that is 25% below the minimum wage in the area. The company also subcontracts to home workers around the community, mostly women who are paid by piece-rate. Benefits such as social security, health, and maternity benefits are not enjoyed by the subcontractuals.

The companies in EPZ's are subject to bigger profits. To ensure it, there are reported cases of women required taking virginity tests. They must be sexually inactive or else they will not be hired. Married women who are already employed are forced to take birth control while those who "misinterpret" themselves in their application are terminated from their jobs.

In other words, the "feminization of laborers" is merely a survival strategy due to the economic crisis. Women are forced to work to earn their living. There are those who become migrant workers, and comprise 12% of all the overseas Filipino workers (OFW's) since 1975 to around half last year. This means an average of 1600 Filipino mothers and daughters leave their families in order to ensure a good life by being domestic helpers, nurses, and entertainers.

Despite this, women workers earn less than men even under the same occupation. They only come close to men in low wage positions. Most women workers can be found in 'labor-intensive export-oriented industries' like food processing, textile/garment and electronics wherein they have to work hard to meet the deadline or the required quota. More than 50% of government employees are women but only 32% are in respectable positions. Even so, when the government issue wage increases, women remain to be exempted. Instead of protecting women from abuses the President had done nothing to ensure their safety. Most of the budget is directed to military and to foreign debt. The Balikatan exercises, for instance, make women susceptible to fall in prostitution. The government had done nothing to stop this instead they continue to support these things. It is safe to assume that the government is after making profits and not after the protection of its citizen.

Sex, Look and Listen

Sex trafficking is the transport of people, mostly women, from one place to another within and across borders for sex trade and sexual exploitation. In most cases, women are forced through threats, intimidation, and deception that they end up- prostitution. Many countries, especially the semi-colonial ones like that of the Philippines, undergo "free trade." Since in free trade, taxes that make women susceptible to "sex-trades" aren't necessarily needed.

In the Philippines, there are approximately 600,000 prostitutes while 35,200 are illegal aliens in Japan alone. In order to survive in a foreign land, women are obliged to sell their bodies. As of 2000, according to Ninotchka Rosca (a Filipino writer based in the US), approximately 20,000 Filipino women are in sex farm in Europe. 50,000 Filipino sponsor brides in US. 100,000 women in Japan, and 2,000 sponsored as wives in Australia, are being subjected to sex slavery.

Another way to sell women is through the "mail-order bride" system. There are lots of Internet websites that cater Filipino women outside the country. They are lured into being sex slaves by their husbands or brought into sex dens. These illegal actions will remain a big business since the people behind it finds easy and big money into this system. Another thing, it continues to boom with the police authority behind it. The number of women in prostitution will rise even faster when and if prostitution is loosely defined as "work" or "sex-works".

One of the recent issues today is the 'escort servicing'. This is a problem wherein politicians way back before until now try to hide or gloss on the issue of prostitution because they are among the 'buyers' of women. Many cases have already beeb filed as regards with particular issues in this, but then the government still tries to cover for these traces of abuses.

The worst side is, when one is accused as a prostitute from the law, specifically Article 202 of the Revised Penal Code, stating the definition of prostitute as a women being used to having sex with the opposite mate or making acts of lasciviousness for the sake of money, that women is entitled to be prosecuted by law while the mate can never be charged of any crime except when he was proven guilty of violating Article 341 of the Revised Penal Code which is against white slavery. Until now, the House Bill 5140, laws against sex trafficking of women and minors are still on the process of developing.

Bedtime Stories

Women are always the targets of human rights violations. One of the most popular crimes regarding abuses of women is rape. From a survey, this felony is one of the most done transgressions here in our country. This is due to the fact that the feudal-patriarchal system is maintained together with the bourgeoise thinking towards women, that these members of our society do not stipulate respect.

Before, it is stated in Article 335 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines as "crime against chastity" and thus, a private crime. The article specified that penetration is necessary for rape to occur, that is, the man's penis must enter the woman's vagina. But after that, Republic Act 8353 and 8505 of 1998 have expanded the definition of rape. According to the new law, rape occurs not only when a man inserts his penis into a woman's vagina, but also with the use of force and intimidation.

Although several laws have been revised and changed about the rights of women, nothing has really changed. We have a woman president, alright, but the problems are still disregarded.

"Women make up half the world's population. It is our right. We deserve nothing less," Maria Solis, a human rights lawyer from Guatemala, said.

Women Power?

Since then, women progress, both in their civil and social lives. The Philippine Constitution had protected them. By then, married women could not enter into business contracts, acquire or sell properties without their husbands' approval. But in March 12, 1992, RA 7192 or the Women in Nation Building Act, in pursuance of Section 14, removed this inequality between men and women in our laws. Aside from this, the government also implements the United Nations Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1980) and the New Family Code (EO 209) of 1987. These laws are intended to advance women's welfare and to eliminate all social, legal and political, cultural and economic barriers to full participation of women.

But due to recent developments, wherein, the President herself tagged the women active in protesting to the idiotic policies of the government as "terrorists." Women are not the main concern of this anti-Filipino government. We are politically misguided if we think that women will be prioritized. There are lots of violations that are well hidden in public. The women are victims of colonialism in our country. Hence, they are much more conscious in protecting their reputation against the narrow-minded beings in our society since they are not guaranteed of full security by our government. Though, there are non-government organizations, advocating women in their protest for equal rights-both civil and political.