UN Experts to PH: Decriminalize Abortion, Legalize Divorce


UN Human Rights Committee Advises PH Gov't to Decriminalize Abortion, Legalize Divorce

The United Nations Human Rights Committee, in a concluding observation at its 136th session released on Nov. 3, outlined its principal concerns and called on the Philippine government to legalize divorce and decriminalize abortion, among other recommendations.

The human rights expert body, comprised of 18 independent experts who monitor the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, recognized the presence of Philippine bills that aimed to legalize divorce. However, it reiterated that the lack of a divorce law "may compel victims of domestic violence to remain in violent relationships."

It recommended the Philippine government to intensify efforts to a). Encourage the reporting of violence against women cases; b). Investigate all allegations of violence against women; c). Provide the appropriate training for public officials who handle violence against women cases; and d). Take targeted measures to protect women and children from domestic violence.

Lastly, it called for an expedited adoption of legislation that will legalize divorce in the country to protect all victims of domestic violence.

On a succeeding section, the Human Rights Committee reiterated its past concern that abortion remains illegal in the Philippines, compelling women to turn to underground abortions that put their lives and health at risk.

It also noted its concern about the harassment faced by women and girls who have underwent or seek abortions and the interrogation they encounter in the hands of hospital staff when seeking post-abortion health care. These, on top of the insufficient primary health care facilities in the country, the rise in indirect obstetrical deaths amid the health crisis, as well as the high incidence of accidental pregnancies among adolescent girls.

The expert body has recommended the Philippine government to amend its legislation to ensure safe, legal, and effective access to abortion for pregnant women and girls whose lives and health are at risk or where carrying a pregnancy to term would cause them suffering, especially in cases of rape, incest, or when pregnancy is inviable.

It also advised the government to revoke the criminal penalties imposed on women and girls who undergo abortion and the medical professionals who help them.

Bolstering sexual and reproductive health services in the country, including post-abortion health care, and further development and implementation of programs on sexual and reproductive health education were also recommended by the Human Rights Committee.

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