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This article examines the political contestations over sexual and reproductive rights reform in the Philippines from an intersectional perspective. Specifically, it Angiogenesis Compound Library considers the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill which was enacted in 2012 to unpack the various competing interests and identities of coalitions that are mobilised by sexual and reproductive freedom in the Philippines. It demonstrates how the distinct reform agenda contained in the RH Bill is a direct outcome of the power differentials between and within coalitions. This suggests that the bill serves to benefit some at the expense of others based on how different actors are situated within the intersections of class, gender, sexuality, religion and nation. Data for this research comes from the triangulation of various sources including semi-structured interviews, the RH bill text, and official government and non-government publications. The case of the RH Bill in the Philippines highlights the interdependence between the recognition of sexual and reproductive freedom as a human right and the redistribution of power and resources in society.
Introduction
On December 21, 2012, The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act was signed into law which culminated fourteen years of mass protests, lobbying and plenary debates. The Act, initially and more popularly known as the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, was introduced to guarantee state funding and support for contraceptives in response to wide gaps in sexual and reproductive health outcomes among Filipinos.2 In principle, it recognises the different socio-economic barriers that disproportionately impact the ability of poor women from accessing sexual and reproductive health services and supplies. More importantly, it affirms sexual and reproductive health as part of a broader constellation of human rights which the Philippine state has a duty to protect image and promote. The tremendous feat it took to pass the legislation prompted Senator Miriam Santiago, one of its key proponents, to declare “there is no force more powerful than an idea whose time has come, and today is the time for RH!” Indeed, the RH bill\'s enactment was regarded as historic in the context of the Philippines where various legal restrictions to sexual and reproductive freedom are in place due to the strong lobby of local ‘pro-life’; groups including Catholic religious leaders and conservative elites. However, the following questions must be asked to understand what sort of sexual and reproductive rights ‘reform’; the RH Bill actually brings and to what extent. Why is sexual and reproductive freedom contested in the Philippines to begin with? Which actors and what ideas made the passage of the RH Bill possible?
This article examines the political contestations over sexual and reproductive rights reform in the Philippines from an intersectional perspective. Specifically, it considers the contentious nature of the RH Bill to unpack the various competing interests and identities at stake in the advancement of sexual and reproductive freedom in the country. As various feminists argue, women across cultures and societies have served as biological and symbolic reproducers of group identities such as the family, religion and nation. Thus, the control of women\'s bodies has been at the heart of authoritative struggles over claims on how society and the roles and relationships within it ought to be (Htun, 2003, Yuval-Davis, 1996 and Yuval-Davis, 1997). But more than just competing normative visions, these struggles also reveal contestations over political decision-making and the distribution of resources (Htun, 2003, p. 30; cf. Fraser, 2005). This article demonstrates through the case of the RH Bill mobilisations and reform agenda that such multi-layered dimensions to sexual and reproductive freedom are rendered visible through an intersectional analysis of the various actors that have coalesced to support or oppose change. That is, who gets to decide and who benefits from reforms are influenced by multiple and intersecting relations of power based on class, gender, sexuality, religion and nation (Crenshaw, 1991). Building on existing schol
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