KASAMA Vol. 24 No. 1 / January-February-March 2010 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

Reproductive Health Rights For Women Now

Ellene SanaFriday, 5 March 2010

“Reproductive rights is women empowerment. Reproductive rights para sa pagbabago.”

That was the clear message from Akbayan Party-list representative Ellene Sana, the party's fourth nominee in the May polls, when the group celebrated International Women's Day at Kamuning Market.

“If we want change, if we want social progress, we have to institutionalize the reproductive health rights of women,” said Ellene Sana, Akbayan Party-list fourth nominee for the 2010 polls. “On the eve of elections, we demand all those running for office, from the position of the lowest local government official to the presidentiables, to include the protection of women's reproductive health rights in their platforms.”

According to Sana, throughout history, the reproductive role and well-being of women have always been controlled by men, defined as a private matter, an issue of secondary importance to wealth creation and accumulation.

“The government, through legislation has the enormous power to right historical wrongs and issue justice to those who have been consistent victims of the system. If the incoming administration will deny women their reproductive health rights, they are in tacit approval of mankind's greatest act of violence against women,” she added.

Sana also identified Akbayan's three-point agenda on women's reproductive health. “Reproductive health must start by educating the youth, it must start at home, and it must start now,” she said.

Education means equipping adolescents with the correct information about the physiological and physical changes their bodies undergo, about sex and sexually transmitted diseases and infections, and providing them with safe options.

“It must be a woman's right to decide how many children she will have and what type of contraception she will use,” Sana expounded on the organization's stand about RH starting at home.

Sana also explained the difficulty in getting the RH Bill through congress. According to her, “most politicians and government officials have been procrastinating - they put off deliberations on a very crucial matter and curry to the favors of the leaders of the Catholic Church.”

The Catholic Church hierarchy maintains a strong position against the use of condoms and against sex and reproductive health education, branding these as “anti-family” and “immoral”. They have also consistently spread disinformation about the reproductive health bill and its proponents.

“Unless the Church hierarchy has found the miracle solution the exponential growth of poverty and hunger in relation to the booming population, and to the growing HIV-AIDS epidemic, they should learn to respect the fine line of secularism that separates them from the State,” Sana challenged the Catholic Church hierarchy.

“It is not only women that will benefit upon the institutionalization of reproductive health. This is the right way to start solving problems of growing population of the poor and marginalized, this is the right way to contain the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and protect the greater public,” Sana concluded. “Akbayan enjoins the Filipino people to join us in the continuation of struggle to institutionalize reproductive health.”

Ellene Sana is the current Executive Director of the Center for Migrants’ Advocacy-Philippines (CMA), an independent policy advocacy group working on issues of migrant Filipinos through research, education and direct assistance. SPAN has been partnered with CMA since its founding. Whether or not Ellene gains a seat in the 2010 partylist elections she will continue to be a strong public voice for Filipino migrants.

Akbayan Party-list
Center for Migrants’ Advocacy-Philippines (CMA)