Veto vagrancy bill vs women, Aquino urgedBy Tonette Orejas
Inquirer Central Luzon
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—President Benigno Aquino III should veto and return to Congress a bill that seeks to repeal the vagrancy provision in the Revised Penal Code because it continues to penalize women in prostitution rather than the people who exploit them, a group of women activists said.
If passed, the proposed measure, which consolidated Senate Bill 2726 and House Bill 4936, could “be used by some policemen to perpetuate widespread human rights violations including the imprisonment of women in prostitution, extortion, theft and rape,” lawyer Clara Rita Padilla, executive director of EnGendeRights, said in a statement.
In a phone interview on Sunday, Padilla said that although abuses against women in prostitution were not widely reported, a study by the group in Metro Manila and other provinces documented the women’s experiences of abuse at the hands of law enforcers. The bill continues to focus on the women instead of on the people who exploit them, she said.
Article 202 of the Revised Penal Code lumps vagrants and prostitutes together, with penalties ranging from 30 days in prison and a P200 fine to several months in prison and a P2,000 fine, or both.
“Detaining women in prostitution is not the answer,” Padilla said, noting that many women forced into prostitution had been raped or abused.
She said that removing imprisonment as a penalty for women in prostitution was in compliance with the recommendations of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw), which the Philippines signed in August 1981.