Women in the Philippines have traditionally controlled the family fiances. In traditional societies they have been responsible for planting and household chores and child care although men have participated some in these duties. Women have traditionally been expected to be involved in nurturing tasks like education and service, while men were supposed to be leaders in politics.

Filipino women are usually called Filipina. Their role of a woman in many ways is defined by Catholicism. Women generally don't smoke or drink or eat alone. These are things associated with prostitutes. On one hand in the Philippines, girls are twice as likely to suffer from malnutrition as boys. On the other hand women are often invited to dinner and evening outing unlike other Asian countries when night out are often men only affairs.

The Philippines has a matriarchal society. Women occupy a high place in society, politics and the professions. They enjoy equal social and political rights with men. The present-day Filipina is now more assertive (compared to their ancestors during the Spanish era). There is a growing women’s right movement. Gabriella is an organization which holds a progressive platform which fights against sexual aggression, discrimination, and oppression. [Source: Canadian Center for Intercultural Learning+++]

According to livinginthephilippines.com: “The Filipina enjoys equality with men in many areas, notably in professional, business and career areas. To understand the Filipina, one must look at the different roles she takes in society. As she goes through life, the Filipina may take he roles of daughter, sister, dalaga or young woman, wife, mother, mistress, professional, employer, employee, etc. The first few roles are more firmly entrenched in tradition and probably influence the more modem roles that a Filipina faces. [Source: livinginthephilippines.com]

In pre-colonial times, among many ethnic groups, custom law gave women equal rights with men. They could own and inherit property, engage in trade and industry, and succeed to chieftainship in the absence of a male heir. They had exclusive right to educate and to name their children. They were also the money keepers. During the Spanish times a woman continued the use of her maiden name after marriage, or else merely appended her husband's surname to her own, and the children assumed the hyphenated surname. Her husband may have built their house, the symbol of their conjugal state, but she was the maybahay, literally the owner of the house.[Source: Alvina, C. & Sta. Maria, F. 1987. Essays on Philippine Culture, kasal.com ^]

See Separate Articles on Filipino Brides and Children in the Philippines; Birth Control and Abortion, See Population; Working Women, See Labor

Gender Roles in the Philippines

Dr. Jose Florante J. Leyson wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: “The traditional gender roles in Filipino society are strongly influenced by centuries of Islamic culture, Chinese mores, and 425 years of deep-rooted Spanish Catholic traditions. However, since the 1960s, traditional Filipino gender culture has been transformed by tremendous Western - European and American - influences, except in the Muslim-dominated southern islands, which have been much less influenced by Western contacts. Polygamy, the wife as the husband’s chattel, and deferential behavior of women in the presence of men are still strong values in the Muslim-dominated areas. The Muslim ideals of feminine behavior still produce a dependent, inferior, passive, and obedient woman. [Source: Jose Florante J. Leyson, M.D., Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 2001 |~|]

Men are seen as head the head of the family, but women often assume the role of major income or wage earner as well as homemaker and nurturer of their children. Women are just as likely as men to seek and take overseas contract work. There is broad commitment to extended education at secondary and tertiary education for girls as well as for boys, by all families that can afford it. However, in families with limited means, girls are more likely than boys to be asked to defer or sacrifice their own education in order to support the education of younger siblings, especially younger brothers. Although most CEOs of business enterprises are men, this is not exclusively the case. There are many women in senior positions, especially in government departments. Even when the head of a business or enterprise is a man, it is not uncommon to find that it is a woman who really "runs the show". [Source: Canadian Center for Intercultural Learning+++]

The Filipino family is generally classified as egalitarian. Authority is more or less divided between husband and wife. The husband is formally recognized as the head but the wife has the important position of treasurer of the household and manager of the domestic affairs. Since there are more working women now then ever before, today’s Filipina does a balancing act between career and family. +++

According to everyculture.com: “Traditional roles prevail in rural areas, where men cultivate the land but the entire family is involved in planting and harvesting the crops. Women work in gardens and care for the house and children as well as barnyard animals. In urban areas, men work in construction and machine upkeep and as drivers of passenger vehicles. Women work as teachers, clerks, owners of sari-sari stores, marketers of produce and health care providers. Occupational gender lines are blurred since men also work as nurses and teachers. In the professions, gender lines are less important. Women attorneys, doctors and lawyers are found in the provinces as well as in urban areas. [Source: everyculture.com /=/]

“While families desire male children, females are welcomed to supply help in the house and provide a home in the parents' old age. Women's rights to equality and to share the family inheritance with male siblings are firmly established and are not questioned. The oldest daughter is expected to become an overseas worker (OSW) to provide money for the education of younger siblings and for the needs of aging family members. Women are the familial money managers. The wedding ceremony can include the gift of a coin from the groom to the bride to acknowledge this role. Since personal relationships and wealth are considered the road to success, women have an equal opportunity to achieve. Winners of beauty pageants are likely to succeed in the business and professional world, especially if the pageant was at an international level.” /=/

History of Women in the Philippines

Dr. Jose Florante J. Leyson wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: “In traditional Chinese society, women were to be obedient to the father and elder brothers when young (single), to the husband when married, and to their sons when widowed. For Filipinas of Chinese ethnic origin, marriage was the only means to economic survival. Arranged marriages are still common, with the clear expectation of male offspring who will maintain the “family business” interests and continuity. A wife’s position and security within her husband’s family remains ambiguous until she produces a male heir. These women have no right to divorce or to remarry if widowed. Those who try to defy these traditions have been ostracized and sometimes driven to depression or even to suicide. [Source: Jose Florante J. Leyson, M.D., Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 2001 |~|]

The traditional colonial Filipina was supposed to reach marriage in a virginal state. She was expected to take care of the domestic tasks, go to church, bear and educate children, and support her man in his political, professional, and economic endeavors. The oppressive attitude of colonial Spain toward the Filipinas was first challenged by Mechlora Aquino (Tandang Sora), a non-violent intellectual woman. In the mid-1800s, she was considered as the equal of the French “political” heroine, Joan of Arc, for leading both a political and cultural revolt against the suppression of women’s rights. However, the colonial government quickly extinguished the local revolt, and the treatment of Filipinas as second-class citizens remained in force until Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States in 1898. |~|

In the early years of the American occupation, 1900 to 1930, both females and males were provided with free elementary education. However, only the children of the rich had access to a high school and college education. Although women’s social standing was improved, it was not until the late 1950s that the majority of women achieved equal rights; but this also happened mainly in the urban areas. For a long time, this double standard of colonial mentality was accepted without open criticism. That has changed since the Philippines gained its independence from the United States, with the democratic government taking steps towards recognizing the social and political rights of women. The Western influences on women have resulted in sociocultural independence from parents, spouses, and/or lovers. Women with a college education and businesswomen have started painstakingly to open spaces in the country’s political, economic, legal, and administrative positions. On February 21, 1986, Mrs. Corazon Aquino became the first woman president of the democratic Philippines. |~|

Today, Filipinas occupy key positions in university and medical schools, hospitals, both local and national government, large corporations, research-pharmaceutical companies, journalism, and all fields of the arts. However, discrimination against women and special privileges granted to men continue to exist simply because the males benefit from a deeply rooted and long-standing “male buddy” (comparé) network. |~|

Role and Status Women in the Philippines

Women have always enjoyed greater equality in Philippine society than was common in other parts of Southeast Asia. Since pre-Spanish times, Filipinos have traced kinship bilaterally. A woman's rights to legal equality and to inherit family property have not been questioned. Education and literacy levels in 1990 were higher for women than for men. President Aquino often is given as an example of what women can accomplish in Philippine society. The appearance of women in important positions, however, is not new or even unusual in the Philippines. Filipino women have been senators, cabinet officers, Supreme Court justices, administrators, and heads of major business enterprises. Furthermore, in the early 1990s women were found in more than a proportionate share of many professions although they predominated in domestic service (91 percent), professional and technical positions (59.4 percent), and sales (57.9 percent). Women also were often preferred in assembly-type factory work. The availability of the types of employment in which women predominated probably explains why about two-thirds of the rural to urban migrants were female. Although domestic service is a low-prestige occupation, the other types of employment compare favorably with opportunities open to the average man. [Source: Library of Congress *]

This favorable occupational distribution does not mean that women were without economic problems. Although women were eligible for high positions, these were more often obtained by men. In 1990 women represented 64 percent of graduate students but held only 159 of 982 career top executive positions in the civil service. In the private sector, only about 15 percent of top-level positions were held by women. *

According to many observers, because men relegated household tasks to women, employed women carried a double burden. This burden was moderated somewhat by the availability of relatives and servants who functioned as helpers and child caretakers, but the use of servants and relatives has sometimes been denounced as the equivalent of exploiting some women to free others. *

Since the Spanish colonial period, the woman has been the family treasurer, which, at least to some degree, gave her the power of the purse. Nevertheless, the Spanish also established a tradition of subordinating women, which is manifested in women's generally submissive attitudes and in a double standard of sexual conduct. The woman's role as family treasurer, along with a woman's maintenance of a generally submissive demeanor, has changed little, but the double standard of sexual morality is being challenged. Male dominance also has been challenged, to some extent, in the 1987 constitution. The constitution contains an equal rights clause — although it lacks specific provisions that might make that clause effective. *

As of the early 1990s, divorce was prohibited in the Philippines. Under some circumstances, legal separation was permitted, but no legal remarriage was possible. The family code of 1988 was somewhat more liberal. Reflective of Roman Catholic Church law, the code allowed annulment for psychological incapacity to be a marital partner, as well as for repeated physical violence against a mate or pressure to change religious or political affiliation. Divorce obtained abroad by an alien mate was recognized. Although the restrictive divorce laws might be viewed as an infringement on women's liberty to get out of a bad marriage, indications were that many Filipinas viewed them as a protection against abandonment and loss of support by wayward husbands. *

Filipina Women Stereotypes

In an article on Filipino stereotypes, humanbreeds.com reported: “Lets talk about the Filipina girls: You will always meet the occasional beautiful sexy tall Filipina girl with those breath taking curves but I believe that the points below apply to a huge portion of the Pinoy ladies. [Source: humanbreeds.com, February 7, 2014]

Sweet and Cute Filipinas: 1) Short, the average height of a Filipina girl is 1.517 m (4 ft 11.5 in) according to Wikipedia. 2) Most Filipina girls have beautiful Long black shiny hair… the healthy kind of hair every girl wishes for. 3) Flat and tiny nose which almost every Filipina girl I met is insecure about. 4) Tiny ass, which is usually another source of insecurity to many girls. 5) You will catch most Filipina girls so often wearing short shorts, flipflops and a tee shirt, which to be honest looks cute and a little bit sexy. 6) Another common not so feminine form is having a narrow waist and broader shoulder.

Caring and loving, Filipina girls are very dedicated, loving and selfless in relationships. A Filipina gf or wife would usually do whatever it takes to make her husband / BF happy. In short, Filipinas are usually fit wives, GFs or mothers. On the flip side of the coin, you will always meet “the gold digger” Filipina GF. The GF who wants an iPhone or the GF who likes to go out to all the expensive stores and restaurant and doesn’t even once try to reach for her wallet. You will also meet the GF who has financial problems and is asking for your help. (Living in Dubai, a city with multinational culture, all expatriates including Filipinos, travel and work here to support their family in their home country. Yet, some “gold digger GFs” do go the extra mile by sending 90 percent of their salary to their family while living off almost free with the foreign “none Filipino BF”).

Filipina girls are easy. There is a surprisingly huge number of single Filipina Moms. The Filipino culture seems to be very accepting and forgiving so you often find a Mom having 2 or 3 children, each from a different father and none of the fathers is or has been her husband.

Dating Filipino Girls

Winston posted in his blog happierabroad.com: The Philippines “is a dating paradise for men, especially foreign men. It is easy to get dates or sex anytime you want. No deprivation in this area for men. With most local guys being poor and a large percentage of them being gay or transsexuals, the supply of dateable men is very low. Hence there are always single girls who are looking everywhere you go, a huge surplus of them, never a shortage. 2) Girls are tender, affectionate and treat their boyfriend or suitor very well. They are always there for you and make time for you. They are not hung up on looks. 3) Girls like to flirt and enjoy flattery and compliments. They do not consider a guy who is attracted to them or asks them out to be a creep who ought to leave them alone. There is no such attitude at all. Flirting and signifying interest is not vilified, but seen as natural and adorable. Girls love attention and flattery too, even if they are shy. [Source:Winston, happierabroad.com, December 22, 2011]

4) Females are not prudish or uptight when it comes to touching or physical affection, but are quite receptive and into it themselves. They are not puritanical like their British, American and Oriental counterparts. When they make love, they are tender and soothe you in a way white women can't. 5) There are a variety of girls to choose from in terms of ethnic mixes, ranging from light skinned Chinese types to darker Malay types to Spanish looking white types. 6) Go go bars and videoke bars are cheap to get a girl from to take home. You don't have to sleep alone if you don't want to (unlike some countries where you are forced to sleep alone every night without choice).

“Most girls that date foreigners usually come from poor families who will expect you to support them or give her an allowance that she can use to support them. In other words, they will attempt to leech off you shamelessly. If you are frugal and prefer to save rather than to spend, your will will be constantly in conflict with their will. If you are a foreigner, there will be a double standard against you in that locals are allowed to be stingy toward you, giving you nothing for free and counting every peso. However, you are expected to be a super generous Santa who is happy to give away things for free, and you are supposed to be willing to spend away from your "bottomless pockets" without complaining. In fact, although they may call a foreigner "kuripot" (cheapskate in Tagalog) if he is frugal or tries to save money, it is very odd and out of place for a foreigner to call a Filipino a "kuripot" because Filipinos are expects to be stingy, but foreigners aren't.

Gmmurgirl.hubpages.com reported: “Men from the Philippines are often referred to as 'Pinoy' men or 'Filipino' men. Indeed, Filipino guys are a class of their own. A number of foreign women might find dating them an experience worth trying. Filipino men are often seen as thoughtful, sensitive, romantic and sweet, thought this may not be true for all. Some guys can discriminating and choosy. Any woman foreign or otherwise, confident of herself will not have difficulty getting a Filipino date. Learn about the what makes Filipino guys unique. So here is a lowdown, in case you manage to snag a Filipino date. [Source: gmmurgirl.hubpages.com ]

“If you are a foreign woman looking for a Filipino man to go out with, it helps to know that the local dating scene in the Philippines is very dynamic and colorful. With the proliferation of social networks and mobile phones, opportunities to meet singles and dating sites abound! If you are lucky, speed dating events are organized by a few groups. Moreover, knowing friends will double your chances of meeting eligible male Filipinos. They will be more than willing to play cupid and set you up on a blind date. Hence, a foreign woman trying to look for her Filipino dream date will not run out of options.

“On the other hand, if you are in the capital city on a business trip and hardly know any local friends, do not fret. There are many bars in the city specifically in the business districts area of Makati, Ortigas, and even the Global City with great places to meet new people. Most Filipino men will be friendly enough to strike a conversation with a lone foreigner woman. Nevertheless, do not immediately trust anyone who is too friendly for comfort.

“Dating and finding a Filipino date can be easy for a foreign woman. It has its own advantages and disadvantages. Despite background differences, an interracial relationship can prosper, since many Filipino guys are open to the idea of dating women from a different race or culture. Just make sure you know how to deal with him.

María Clara Image of Filipina Women

In A Study of Psychopathology, Filipino psychiatrist Lourdes V, Lapus writes: “The Filipino culture, for all the increasing signs and protests to the contrary, still has a large hangover from its ego-idea for women of many bygone years. This is the so-called Maria Clara image of a woman who is shy, demure, modest, self-effacing, and loyal to the end. The openly provocative, sexually aggressive female who is frequently associated with the American female image is still comparatively rare in Filipino culture.”

According to livinginthephilippines.com: Filipinas generally strive to portray the Maria Clara image and frown on aggressive displays by women. An aggressive woman, which description includes one who is open and mixes freely with men, is considered sexually loose. Cultural norms favor the demure, modest female when it comes to personal, social or business relationships with men. Social inferiority is not implied. [Source: livinginthephilippines.com]

María Clara, whose full name is María Clara de los Santos, is the mestiza heroine in Noli Me Tángere, a novel by José Rizal, the national hero of the Republic of the Philippines. Her name and character has since become a byword in Filipino culture for the traditional ideally woman. María Clara is the childhood sweetheart and fiancée of Noli Me Tángere's hero, Juan Crisóstomo Ibarra y Magsalin, the son of Don Rafael Ibarra. Although raised as Santiago "Kapitan Tiyago" de los Santos' daughter, María Clara is the illegitimate offspring of Father Dámaso, a Spanish friar, and Doña Pía Alba. Doña Alba is the wife of Kapitan Tiyago, who are both native Filipinos. Father Damaso (also known as Padre Damaso) is known to Maria Clara as a godfather. María Clara never met her mother because Doña Alba died during the delivery of her daughter. She grew under the guidance and supervision of Tía Isabél, Kapitan Tiyago's cousin. While her boyfriend Crisostomo Ibarra was travelling in Europe, Kapitan Tiyago sent her to the Beaterio de Santa Clara, a convent where she developed femininity under religion. Later in the novel, María Clara discovers the truth that Father Damaso is her biological father. [Source: Wikipedia +]

In the novel, María Clara is regarded as the most beautiful and widely celebrated lady in the town of San Diego. María Clara, being religious, the epitome of virtue, "demure and self-effacing" and endowed with beauty, grace and charm, was promoted by Rizal as the "ideal image" of a Filipino woman who deserves to be placed on the "pedestal of male honor". In Chapter 5 of Noli Me Tángere, María Clara and her traits were further described by Rizal as an "Oriental decoration" with "downcast" eyes and a "pure soul". +

Rizal based the fictional character of María Clara from his real-life girlfriend and cousin Leonor Rivera. Although praised and idolized, María Clara's chaste, "masochistic" and "easily fainting" character had also been criticized as the "greatest misfortune that has befallen the Filipina in the last one hundred years". In fashion in the Philippines, María Clara's name has become the eponym for a Filipino national dress for females known as the María Clara gown, an attire connected to María Clara's character as a maiden who is delicate, feminine, self-assured and with a sense of identity. +

María Clara's song by José Rizal:

Sweet the hours in the native country,
where friendly shines the sun above!
Life is the breeze that sweeps the meadows;
tranquil is death; most tender, love.

Warm kisses on the lips are playing
as we awake to mother's face:
the arms are seeking to embrace her,
the eyes are smiling as they gaze.

How sweet to die for the native country,
where friendly shines the sun above!
Death is the breeze for him who has
no country, no mother, and no love!

Filipina Wives

Perry Gamsby, a writer and lecturer who lives with his Cebuana wife and five Australia-Filipina daughters in Western Sydney, wrote: “Western men are attracted to Philippine women for their attention to keep their family and marriage going. There is a stereotype out there that Asian women are subservient to their husbands. They treat him like a king and do everything for him, are great mothers, loyal partners and hot in the cot. Stereotypes, good or bad, have to come from somewhere and there is a lot of truth in that opening sentence. There is, however, a lot of ‘not so true’ in there also. [Source: Perry Gamsby, Jeff Harvie, filipinawives.wordpress.com, August 5, 2014 ^|^]

“There are still big differences between Filipinas from one part of the country to another. Seven thousand islands and dozens of dialects means there are similarities but many, many differences between a Filipina from, say, Manila, to one from the second biggest city, Cebu, or Davao. When we start comparing Filipinas from the cities to those from ‘da probince’ (province or rural areas), the differences are even more and varied. ^|^

“Filipinas usually make friends easily. They are warm and hospitable. They smile a lot, which makes it easier for strangers or foreigners to feel at ease with them. They can easily strike up a conversation with the person seated next to them, for example. Filipinas are very family-oriented, so are always interested in your own family and where you are from. Many Filipinas have family, relatives and friends working and or settled overseas and are interested—even anxious—to make (casual) linkages between their own overseas family and relatives with your family or friends. Filipinas are extremely social and hospitable; they also like to eat and drink often. Filipinas really enjoy humour and love to tell jokes in social settings, but less so in the context of business. Humour may be self-deprecating, often relies on puns, but is rarely dry or cynical. Irony is often not understood or is misinterpreted. ^|^

See Filipino Brides

Women in Government

Under the Philippines consitution women are promised the same voting rights as men. Since Marcos was ousted in 1986 the Philippines has had two women presidents: Cory Aquino and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. But even so women are still not very well represented in Philippine government. In 2001, only 24 of the 216 memers of Congress were women. Arroyo had three women in her cabinet.

Many of the women in Philippine politics—including Aquino, Arroyo, and Imelda Marcos and her daughter—got to where they were riding on the coat tails of their husbands, fathers or other family members.

Sexual Harassment and Abuse in the Philippines

Dr. Jose Florante J. Leyson wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: The Euro-American concept of sexual harassment has no place in the tradition of Filipina subservience to males that is part of marianismo, the symbiotic culture to machismo. However, the experience of sexual harassment is emerging in the social consciousness, as Filipinas respond to Western influences and begin to assert their personal and political rights. Women from the barrios and small towns are easily intimidated, but it is the sophisticated and well-educated women who challenge the “old-boy buddy” system and file complaints. Sexual harassment is punished through an administrative indictment that may end with a dismissal from public service. The administrative procedure, however, does not preclude legal action by the alleged perpetrator. The strength of the current law shows that Filipinas are expanding their political presence/clout, and winning the support of men, who know the problem well from inside the system. [Source: Jose Florante J. Leyson, M.D., Encyclopedia of Sexuality , 2001 |~|]

Despite a long colonial period during which wealthy hacienderos controlled and regularly exploited their indigenous female employees without fear that the victims might find some recourse in the justice system, recent educational reforms and the transition to a democratic government are producing a more humane society. However, there is still considerable violence within Filipino households perpetrated by the male head of the household. Abuse of this kind is seldom reported to police, because women know that the male police usually behave in the same way in their homes. [Source: Jose Florante J. Leyson, M.D., Encyclopedia of Sexuality , 2001 |~|]

Attention on work rape was brought to the fore after a married chamber of commerce executive said she was raped by her boss in a motel after a business meeting. The case was significant in that married women usually stay quiet after being raped so as not to humiliate their husbands and families. The boss was arrested and imprisoned.

In the poorest households, girls are conditioned from infancy to accept the violent behavior of their fathers, particularly when they return home intoxicated. The initial physical abuse may lead to sexual intercourse that amounts to marital rape. Faced with a society that until recently did not recognize the possibility of marital rape or a woman’s basic rights, abused women capitulate, repress their feelings, retreat into their taciturn dreams, and continue laboring for the survival of their families, especially their offspring. Even then, if she does not manage to hide at least some of her earnings, the husband may spend them with another woman or drinking with friends. Local newspapers occasionally report domestic incidents when a wife inflicts serious genital damage on her husband while resisting his violent carnal advances. Philippine Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD) statistics reported that in the first three quarters of 1998, there were at least 1,152 cases of rape and attempted rape, 656 cases of incest, and 400 cases of lasciviousness. |~|

Abused Women in the Philippines

In 2012, the number of cases of violence against women (VAW) reported to the Philippine National Police (PNP) increased by 23.3 percent from 2011. The number grew from 12,948 cases to 15,969. The 2012 report was so far the highest number of reported VAW cases since 1997. [Source: Huffington Post, October 24, 2013 +/+]

Wife abuse is a serious problem in the Philippines. Some hospitals have counselors that deals with victims who have been referred to them from the emergency rooms. In television dramas, domestic abuse and rape go often unpunished. Radio talk show hosts have joked that wives should stop complaining about marital rape and “lie back and enjoy it.”

A Philippines government survey released in January 2010, said one in five Filipino women under 50 years old have suffered physical abuse since the age of 15. Helen Flores wrote in the Philippine Star, “The 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), conducted by the National Statistics Office found that women with no education or only primary education were physically abused almost twice as much as those who were better educated. The NSO survey also showed that nine percent of women had experienced “sexual violence,” often involving either a husband or a boyfriend. The chance of experiencing sexual violence was also found greater for poorer women and those with less education, the survey indicated. [Source: Helen Flores, phistar.com. January 16, 2010]

“The survey, conducted from Aug. 7 to Sept. 27, 2008, used face-to-face interviews of 14,000 women 15 to 49 years old. They were asked: “At any time in your life, as a child or as an adult, has anyone ever forced you in any way to perform any sexual acts against your will?” The survey is the ninth in a series of demographic and health surveys conducted to assess the demographic and health situation in the country.” [Ibid]

Rape and Rape Laws in the Philippines

Dr. Jose Florante J. Leyson wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: “The seriousness of rape against an individual female was brought to the public eye by the media when a famous actress was “gang raped” in the mid-1960s. The public demanded the severest punishment, the death penalty, and they got it. Execution by hanging, electrocution, or lethal injection as a penalty for rape has been on the books since 1924. The death penalty was abolished in 1987 but reinstated in 1994. In 2000, there were about 900 persons on death row, including a former member of Congress convicted in 1998 and awaiting execution for rape. Even though no actual executions for rape have taken place, the law has been instrumental in helping reduce such incidents [Source: Jose Florante J. Leyson, M.D., Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 2001 |~|]

In one particularly egregious rape case, a congressman was accused of raping a girl that he bought from her stepfather. When he was arrested he joked, “When you do it, do you ask for a birth certificate?” He claimed she was at the legal age of consent of 12 (an effort to raise the age of statutory rape to 14 has been unsuccessful).

After nine years of debate, the House of Representatives finally, in 1997, approved the bicameral conference report on a new law that heavily penalizes rape and makes it easier for government prosecutors to prosecute rape cases. This anti-rape law reclassifies rape from “a crime against chastity” to “a crime against a person.” Thus, if the victim is a minor and refuses to accuse the perpetrator, only the minor’s legal guardian or the court can file a suit. This new law also penalizes marital rape, but opens the door for the spouse to forgive her husband, in which case the charge is voided. The new law also redefines the nature of rape, expanding the traditional definition of forced penile insertion in the vagina to include unwanted insertion of the penis, or any object or instrument, in any bodily orifice of another person. These “other acts” are now part of “sexual assault.” The law in the Revised Penal Code also eliminates the gender bias, so that a woman can now be charged with raping a man. Finally, the law makes it possible to present evidence in court, in which presumption is created in favor of a rape victim, so that any overt physical act manifesting resistance in any degree can now be accepted as evidence of rape. Similarly, evidence that the victim was in a situation where she/he was incapable of giving valid consent can now be accepted as evidence of rape. |~|

For many years, the law against rape in the Philippines was described as a law against chastity. This meant that sexually experienced woman often difficulty proving they were raped because they were not virgins. Defense lawyers routinely had rape cases thrown out by arguing the victims was promiscuous because she wasn't a virgin and therefore her chastity was not harmed.

In the mid 1990s, rape-reform became hot topic as reformers attempted to get the law changed so that rape victims were rape victims regardless of whether they were virgins, chaste or no chaste or married. Reformers also wanted to expand the definition of rape from penile penetration to oral and anal penetration with hand and other objects.

The Philippines used to have the death penalty for rape. No rapist however was executed. One lawmaker suggested in 1995 that convicted rapists should have their penises amputated. "Considering the chauvinistic attitude of most Filipino males, having one's sexual organ cut off is worse than death itself," the lawmaker said.

Machismo and Abuse in the Philippines Matriarchal Society

Jasmine Maderazo wrote in the Viet Nam News: “Unlike other Asian countries, the Philippines is a matriarchal society. Men who quarrel with women are labelled “gays” by the community because most of us believe that a guy is not a true man if he disrespects a woman. When a man is caught abusing a woman, people will angrily ask him, “Why did you do that? Don’t you have a mother, a daughter, sister, or even a female cousin?!” [Source: Jasmine Maderazo, Viet Nam News ]

“Sadly, however, violence against women also exists in the Philippines. In impoverished families, husbands encourage, or sometimes force, their wives to work for the family. Physical and emotional abuse, marital rape, and other threats against women’s personal safety and security are becoming rampant. Surprisingly, domestic violence exists not only among the poor, but also in affluent homes - particularly where a wife is more successful than her husband. In this setting, some men feel inferior and develop insecurities, resorting to aggressive behaviour to demonstrate machismo.

“Psychologically speaking, machismo is a display of male superiority, ranging from a personal sense of virility to more extreme displays of masculinity. In many Asian cultures, machismo is acceptable and even expected. Wives usually keep marital horrors to themselves, never seeking help from outside parties just to “protect” the marriage.

“Their decision to endure the trauma of an unhealthy relationship is not influenced by any Confucian traditions as in Viet Nam. Filipino women choose to keep mum about their sufferings because of their emotional and economic dependence on men, and the fear of shame and stigma of a broken home.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Philippines Department of Tourism, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated June 2015

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